The need for emergency preparedness planning was highlighted in 2011 by losses from the earthquake and tsunami in
Preparing any business for disaster involves identifying possible hazards, mitigating their effects and identifying response measures before those hazards become active threats. One business environment that has received little attention in this area is academic libraries, which house employees, visiting patrons and a high fuel load due to their diverse collections (Robertson, 2005). While most academic libraries fall under the emergency preparedness umbrella of their parent institution, a library can develop a program of self-help. Even beneath a university's master plan, by identifying gaps in preparedness, the libraries have an opportunity to improve their policies and procedures.
To identify a baseline of hazards, mitigation measures and response plans for a sample set of academic libraries, the directors of academic libraries located in
The Study Population: MOBIUS
In 1998, academic libraries in
At the time of the survey, author Lengfellner worked at the
To further develop survey questions, the authors researched the literature. Yeh, McMullen and Kane (2010) conducted a survey to identify risks and vulnerabilities. Eden, Feather and
Once all involved were satisfied, the final version was submitted to and approved by the UCM Human Subjects Committee. The resulting 78-question survey was built using an online survey tool (Survey Monkey) and was distributed using e-mail addresses from MOBIUS. Some questions took the form of safety policy statements that focused on various emergency mitigation and preparedness issues relative to library facilities. For most questions, respondents could answer: Yes = This describes what my library has or does; No = This is not something my library has or does; or Don't know - I don't know whether or not my library has or does this. Other questions used a multiple-choice format (e.g., size of the library's collection).
Variations in Library Settings & Personnel
The first questions of the survey asked about the type of academic institution supported, size of collection and budget, number and type of employees, and number of employees assigned to do emergency planning. The libraries surveyed represented a broad range of staff levels, ranging from only 1 to 62 professional librarians. [A professional librarian holds a master7s of library science degree from a school accredited by
The surveyed libraries supported public and private, 2-year and 4-year institutions. Collections ranged in size from less than 25,000 items to more 3 million items. Library budgets ranged from less than
Identifying Hazards for Libraries
Libraries come in many shapes and sizes, but most typically feature open areas filled with book stacks, small study or meeting rooms, staff workrooms, utility rooms and similar areas. Some buildings may be large, architectural wonders with picture windows for walls, while others may be small, specialized nooks crammed into a space originally designed for offices. Some libraries house materials such as videos, discs, games, puppets or artwork in addition to books and journals.
Libraries are susceptible to the same hazards faced by most businesses in their vicinity, and like them, may be underprepared for many emergencies (Topper, 2008). "When it comes to disasters, the question usually is not if, but when" (Clareson & Long, 2006, p. 39). Clareson and Long (2006) found that 33 libraries in
Fire Hazards: Findings & Recommendations
As storehouses of mostly flammable collections, libraries have a long history of fire damage. Robertson (2005) discusses "postponing
In this survey, respondents reported that most of their facilities have smoke detectors, loud audible alarms as well as visual alarms, and pull- or break-glass alarms; however, most do not report that they have heat detectors. Most of the libraries represented have automatic fire sprinklers located throughout the building and stacks (Table 1).
Although a few respondents were uncertain, most respondents said that their facilities' automatic sprinklers would not douse the entire building, just the area where a fire was detected. This is significant because using water to extinguish the fire can cause additional problems in a library. Paper and electronics react poorly to water. Wet paper must be dried quickly and carefully to prevent mold growth. How does this relate to safety? Besides destroying materials, mold can rapidly become a health hazard to library employees and visitors and to those hired to clean up the mess (Carlson, 2005; "Mold-afflicted
Rare items might be irrecoverably damaged by water sprinklers, so libraries can use FM-200 (also known as heptafluoropropane, HFC-227ea, FE227) or similar fire suppression agents. People must evacuate the room when such systems activate so the systems are programmed to allow occupants sufficient time to exit before the suppressant is released. First aid for exposure includes flushing eyes with water for 15 minutes, removing clothes, washing skin with soap and water, removing people to fresh air and securing medical attention to treat symptoms. Most of libraries surveyed do not have such a system (Table 2), and those that do post signs alerting occupants to evacuate when the alarm sounds (Forssell, Robin, Ginn, et al., 2007).
Fire extinguishers differ based on anticipated use. Most of the library directors reported having Type A or multipurpose fire extinguishers for paper and Type C fire extinguishers for areas with computers or electrical equipment (Table 3).
Evacuations: Findings & Recommendations
Because of material security, most library buildings are not designed for easy egress. Funnel points past checkout counters allow for material control but create pinch points during evacuation. Most libraries must simply adapt to a building's design, leaving administrative procedures as the primary safety tools. Evacuations for fire involve getting everyone out of the building safely. During a tornado, evacuating everyone to designated safe spots in the building becomes the priority. Survey responses reveal that not all libraries conducted drills (Table 4).
Library employees normally interact one-on-one with patrons. During an emergency, crowd control can rapidly become a priority. Thus, training in crowd control is an important step, as are involving employees in examining existing procedures, practicing via drills, analyzing their experiences and developing improvements. This becomes a cycle of continuous improvement. "Plan the work . . . work the plan . . . test the plan" (Lindtveit, 2011b, p.14).
Because training everyone visiting the building is not possible, the staff and faculty of the
The library also faces another issue: its primary entrance is a three-story glass rotunda containing two glass elevators and stairs made of glass blocks. This is the only entrance/exit the public uses. Four areas of the building have reinforced emergency stairwells, however, line of sight to these exits is blocked by walls and book stacks. The four stairwells all allow egress to the outside of the building, but the basement is another matter. The library's basement is large and L-shaped, passing under the outer edges of the building's north and east sides. This was done to ensure that the book stacks in the center core of the building were over solid ground rather than over an open expanse. Therefore, the southwest stairwell does not go all the way to the basement.
During drills at the
People who have trouble with stairs are notified to move to the first floor in advance of a weather warning (during the watch phase) or an evacuation drill. Standard procedures call for people who cannot manage stairs to remain on the floor where they started, but within the fire-resistant, reinforced emergency stairwell. Employees are expected to notify first responders where people who need help with stairs are located. According to the survey, only about half of the libraries said that they notify occupants with mobility issues before a drill.
In the case of power outages, for patrons as well as special populations,
Help From First Responders
Local fire personnel have toured the library and met with the library dean, the Emergency Operations Committee and UCM's EHS manager to discuss vulnerabilities and emergency assets. During those meetings, library personnel provided information about sprinkler and alarm systems, floor plans and other details.
Weather Hazards: Findings & Recommendations
Weather in the Midwest runs the gamut from drought to floods, from ice and snow to thunderstorms and tornadoes. Table 5 (p. 44) details survey responses related to weather hazards and mitigation responses.
Public Address Systems
Communication can limit the effects of hazardous situations. However, about 64% of the libraries surveyed did not have a public address system. These systems help quickly reach all areas of the library, including study rooms, restrooms and classrooms.
Weather evacuation shelters should be equipped with emergency kits that provide first-aid supplies, food and water, and similar resources to occupants. (
Carlson (2005) and Clareson and Long (2006) describe the plight of water-damaged libraries after Hurricane Katrina. Moist conditions from weather can create mold. While mold may not seem like an emergency, it can destroy valuable collections and create serious health concerns for workers and visitors.
Plumbing problems can also allow mold growth, such as when a pipe leaked in the
Earthquake Findings & Recommendations
The New Madrid Fault Line is located in the bootheel of
Various agencies and organizations offer resources related to earthquakes, including
Although many of the library directors surveyed have worked in
Workplace Violence & Terrorism
Academic libraries should develop specific protocols for bomb threats, intruderon-campus warnings, acts of violence, explosions and disturbances at student activities (Nichols & Nichols, 1992). Yeh, et al. (2010), found that measures such as additional lighting, a web-based surveillance system, and panic buttons for both staff and patron use can resolve some security issues. While not covered specifically in the authors' survey, further studies based on human behavior during hazards present an opportunity to investigate an important set of issues in emergency response.
Inspiring Libraries to Take Action
While some hazards identified cannot be eliminated, library and university personnel can identify the risks and develop effective response measures. Library personnel must be motivated to accept the challenges of emergency preparedness and be trained to respond effectively (Robertson, 2005).
Major libraries are showing that they take emergency preparedness seriously. The
Role of Library Staff
By working with employees, libraries can adapt their facilities to help mitigate the effects of various disasters, and practice responding effectively to various threats (Todaro, 2009). Like other businesses, libraries should develop business continuity plans to prepare to meet and recover from possible worst-case scenarios (Morganti, 2002).
Lindtveit (2011a) maintains that all employees must be educated in the issues and involved in the process in order to develop a functional emergency plan. "The more your facility and personnel know and are prepared for, the easier the professional responder's job becomes," (Lindtveit, 2011a, p. 37). In some settings, this may require a change in the culture of the workplace itself.
Muir and Shenton (2002) identify several important variables for developing such a culture: management commitment, well-maintained facilities, training on and testing of procedures, and actively aware and involved employees who take ownership of the process. Employees who understand the possible threats and have the tools to deal with them form a proactive, attentive team working toward a common goal: mitigate hazards and prepare responses.
Before making any changes, a library should establish a baseline of existing emergency procedures. The researchers hope that as a result of completing the survey, the participating library directors are more aware of their facilities' preparedness issues. Awareness creates an incentive to improve policies, train staff and be more receptive to changes suggested by safety professionals.
Kostagiolas, Araka, Theodorou, et al. (2011), proposed that academic libraries in
Role of OSH Professionals
OSH professionals can use the survey results as an introduction to the library environment. They can help library administrators recognize hazards that could affect their facilities and staff, analyze risks and take proactive steps to reduce the effects. As teachers and guides, safety professionals help library personnel to take ownership of the procedures they help develop (Eden & Matthews, 1996; Muir & Shenton, 2002).
OSH professionals can provide comprehensive, effective, proactive planning and show how this is far more effective than reactionary responses. They can help library administrators to assess risk, establish effective communications protocols, train personnel, develop general and specific operating procedures, and develop recovery plans (Nichols & Nichols, 1992). This represents a tremendous opportunity for OSH professionals to help an underserved market (Robertson, 2005).
Preparing any business for disaster involves identifying possible hazards, mitigating their effects and identifying response measures.
*One environment that has received little attention in this area is academic libraries.
By understanding the situations these facilities face, OSH professionals can conduct insightful assessments and recommend proactive solutions.
Preparedness Planning Steps
*Evaluate your environment.
*Identify hazards and assets.
*Develop and prepare responses to various hazards.
*Set up recovery assistance.
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The authors thank several individuals for their contributions to the survey and the thesis on which this article is based: