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Leatherby Libraries and Special Collections & Archives Emergency Response Plan

This guide contains the emergency response plan for the Leatherby Libraries and the Frank Mt. Pleasant Library of Special Collections and Archives.

Initial Response & Assessment

A. Contact Appropriate Personnel

When a member of the Library staff encounters an emergency, the first response should always be to contact the Department of Public Safety

  • From a Chapman phone: extension 6763 or 911
  • From an outside line: (714) 997-6763
  • From a campus pay phone: *22

When the library is closed, disaster will be detected from the outside. In this case the Department of Public Safety will notify appropriate library staff. The Department of Public Safety maintains a list of emergency contact personnel from the library.

B. Stabilize the Situation

When appropriate, library staff should take steps to limit potential damage while waiting for emergency personnel to arrive. Such steps include: 

  • Making sure that patrons and staff are not in danger. Safety of human beings comes before protection of library materials. Library staff themselves should not take unwarranted risks to save library materials.
  • Getting materials out of danger. If the number of materials threatened by water is small, they can simply be moved to a dry place. For larger problems, plastic sheeting can be spread over the stacks to shield them from water coming from above. 

No cleanup or salvage work should be attempted until the situation is stable and a damage assessment has been made. 

C. Determine the Level of Disaster 

In all emergencies the Dean of the Library and the Emergency Response Team leaders will be contacted. On the basis of an initial assessment they will determine what other library staff should be notified. For minor problems no additional help may be necessary. For more serious problems members of the library Administration and other appropriate staff will be notified. Major disasters will involve the entire staff as directed by the Emergency Response Team.


Response Coordinator - the public face of the library; responds to University and media inquiries

ERT Leader - coordinates actual response activities and manages workflow; keeps Response Coordinator informed of activities; communicates with Physical Plant regarding library needs 

Supply Officer - keeps emergency response cabinets stocked; assemble and distribute necessary supplies and equipment; arrange for replenishment of supplies as needed; arrange for food for work crews.

Lead Packer - trains and supervises volunteers in handling and packing materials 

Recorder - inventory and record destroyed and damaged materials; arrange for photographing of damage and recovery. Separate lists should be created for destroyed materials, materials to be repaired in-house, materials sent off-site for freezing, and those to be sent to the commercial bindery.

Staff Coordinator - Gathers the people necessary for salvage operations, sets schedules, and assigns workers to appropriate tasks as needed.

Responsibilities of the Emergency Response Team:

  • Conduct initial damage assessment and take preliminary actions
  • Inform university insurance and legal representatives of the nature and extent of damage
  • Investigate financial resources for recovery efforts
  • Determine what commercial recovery services and supplies are needed and contact vendors
  • Organize, train, and supervise recovery volunteers
  • Coordinate communications among staff and with the public and news media
  • Keep records of all decisions made and activities undertaken
  • Enter the damage zone.
    • Use extreme caution. It may be necessary to wait until safety officials have determined that fire has been completely extinguished, the building is structurally sound, and there is no danger of electric shock in wet areas. If entry is delayed, use this time to begin contacting outside assistance such as a conservator, commercial disaster recovery service, etc.
    • Never work alone. Teams of two or three people should enter area. Have at least one cell phone or radio to communicate with outside.
  • Set up a command post.
    • This will serve as the single location where decisions are made, information disseminated, and responsibilities assigned. The command post should be staffed at all times.
  • Make initial damage assessment.
    • Do not try to move materials. This is a broad brush view. Move quickly taking pictures and notes.
    • Assess damage to materials based on the questions below. Begin keeping a detailed visual record (photographs, video) of the damage and the recovery process.
      • What types of materials have been damaged? 
      • What is the nature of the damage? Water and fire damage are the most common forms. Wet books require rapid action in order to be salvaged, while fire-damaged books that are not wet can be left alone until more urgent needs have been addressed.
      • How extensive and severe is the damage? While it is not appropriate to inspect every item at this point, select samples and examine them closely. Water-damaged books can range from damp around the edges to totally saturated, and treatment strategies will be determined by the degree of wetness. The greatest threat to water-damaged books is mold, which can appear as soon as 48 hours after the water damage first occurs. If treatment of all wet items cannot begin within 48 hours, some or all materials should be frozen until treatment can proceed.  
  • Decide on handling of materials.
    • Based on the initial damage assessment, decide whether to withdraw, withdraw and replace, or attempt salvage of damaged materials. Severe fire damage is generally irreversible; salvage is not possible. Water-damaged materials can usually be salvaged, but the process is expensive, labor-intensive, and time-consuming. Replacement is most appropriate for readily available items such as current newspapers and journals, recent monographs, and commercially produced microforms. Replacement of older materials can be as difficult as salvage and is often not even possible.
    • Materials that are to be withdrawn should be set aside rather than discarded immediately. This will allow efforts to be concentrated on materials that can be saved and permit a second evaluation when time allows.
  • Select salvage method(s) and make vendor contacts.
    • If salvage of water-damaged materials is to be undertaken, decide what method(s) to use and begin making appropriate outside contacts. 
      • Air-drying is the simplest and least expensive option, and it can be conducted entirely in- house if sufficient space and staff can be made available. Treatment of all items must begin within 48 hours in order for air-drying to succeed. Designate a work area with plenty of space and work tables and arrange for staff to be contacted and trained.
      • Freezing is not primarily a treatment method in itself, but a way of arresting damage until treatment can proceed.Freezing halts mold growth, prevents inks from running and pages from sticking together, reduces smoke odor, andinitiates the drying process. Books may be frozen indefinitely with no further damage, and all further treatment options still remain possible. 
      • Vacuum-freeze-drying is a commercially available service in which frozen materials are placed in a vacuum chamber so that ice crystals vaporize without melting. This process is especially appropriate for large numbers of very wet books as well as for coated paper.
      • Other commercial drying processes: although vacuum-freeze-drying is the best-known method, alternatives such as dehumidification and thermal-vacuum-drying do exist. 
  • Begin salvage operations in building.
    • If water damage is present, take immediate action to lower the temperature and humidity in order to inhibit mold growth. Target temperature should be 65 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity 45%. Turn down the thermostat, turn on the heat or air-conditioning, and set up dehumidifiers and fans. Begin to remove standing water with wet-dry vacuums if this can be done without further damage to materials. 
    • Decide whether the building or any part of it should be closed and whether hours and services should be curtailed. While it is important to maintain services if possible, the success of any salvage effort will depend on the availability of adequate numbers of staff and their ability to work without distraction. Cordon off the damage area and discourage disaster sightseers. Even volunteers eager to help can hinder the recovery process if they are allowed into the damage area before a work plan can be developed. 
    • Check frequently to make sure that measures taken to stabilize the emergency are still working. For example, is water accumulating on or dripping around the edges of plastic sheeting covering the shelves? Are ceiling tiles collecting water that will cause them to collapse onto shelves below? 

Personal Safety Equipment and Supplies

To assist with any emergency response, staff members need to be appropriately clothed and equiped for their own safety.

  • Long-sleeved shirt
  • Long pants
  • Sturdy shoes or boots
  • Rubber boots

The library owns some safety equipment and supplies. 

  • Rubber gloves
  • Flashlights
  • Dust Masks
  • Hard hats
  • Safety glasses/goggles
  • Plastic sheeting