Hoping for the Best, but Preparing for the Worst: A Disaster Preparedness Workshop

By Emily Moyer, Collections Care Assistant, The Gladys Brooks Book & Paper Conservation Laboratory

Puzzling over what to do with materials.  Alan Galicki supervises, far right.

Puzzling over what to do with materials. Alan Balicki supervises, far right.

On December 11, Alan Balicki, chief conservator at the New York Historical Society, came to NYAM’s Gladys Brooks Book & Paper Conservation Laboratory to lead an afternoon workshop about the importance of disaster planning, response, and recovery. The Conservation Lab recently rolled out a comprehensive Collections Disaster Plan detailing the proper protocols for dealing with disasters and Alan’s workshop was a great way to cap off this project.

Facilities staff experiment with draping techniques to protect against a leak.

Facilities staff experiment with draping techniques to protect against a leak.

The most common risk that libraries face is flooding due to pipe leaks or severe weather conditions. All the staff from Center for the History of Medicine and Public Health as well as several members from the Facilities Department had the opportunity to see what happens when materials get wet (all items used were set to be discarded). Center staff members were also able to engage in hands-on experimentation on how to dry different items based on their materiality and to ask questions in a non-disaster setting. Staff were encouraged to return to the lab the next day to see how the items had dried and engage in conversation about best practices.

Wet items everywhere!

Wet items everywhere!

VHS, film, and photographs.

VHS, film, and photographs.

We experimented with a variety of materials, including coated paper, leather covers, colored paper, shrink wrapped materials, photographs, audio-visual materials, and blueprints. Staff practiced interleaving soaked books, draping with plastic, and basic techniques for dealing with wet and fragile materials. Workshop participants dried materials using best practices (fanning and interleaving) as well as unorthodox methods (keeping the materials wet and closed) in order to compare the results. It was very instructive to witness how thoroughly books soaked up surrounding water, and how quickly coated paper began to “block,” or stick together, when wet. It was not surprising that some colored papers and Post-it notes bleed when wet, but seeing how quickly and dramatically they reacted to water was a good cautionary lesson. Conversely, it was encouraging to see how effectively shrink wrapping protected items from water.

Paper, cloth, and leather materials.

Paper, cloth, and leather materials.

Alan gave a thoughtful presentation on real-world dangers faced by libraries, and impressed the group with his capable and pragmatic approach to disaster planning. Thanks to everybody for a great learning experience, and especially to Alan for his time and expertise.

Don’t Get Left Behind in the Wind and Rain

By Danielle Aloia, Special Projects Librarian

HurricanePreparednessWeekThe Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1 and the Eastern Pacific season began May 15. With factors like global warming1 and urban sprawl2 affecting storm intensity and impact, the need to be prepared ahead of time is more important than ever.

Hurricane Georges, Gulf Coast, Sept. 28, 1998. From NASA’s Mesoscale Atmospheric Processes Branch.3

Hurricane Georges, Gulf Coast, Sept. 28, 1998. From NASA’s Mesoscale Atmospheric Processes Branch.3

Researchers have found evidence of Atlantic hurricane activity going as far back as 3,000 years ago.4 The naming of storms began in the early 19th century. As the World Meteorological Organization explains, named storms can “facilitate tropical cyclone/hurricane disaster risk awareness, preparedness, management and reduction.”5

Atlantic Names

Atlantic Pronunciation Guide (PDF)

2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Arthur
Bertha
Cristobal
Dolly
Edouard
Fay
Gonzalo
Hanna
Isaias
Josephine
Kyle
Laura
Marco
Nana
Omar
Paulette
Rene
Sally
Teddy
Vicky
Wilfred
Ana
Bill
Claudette
Danny
Erika
Fred
Grace
Henri
Ida
Joaquin
Kate
Larry
Mindy
Nicholas
Odette
Peter
Rose
Sam
Teresa
Victor
Wanda
Alex
Bonnie
Colin
Danielle
Earl
Fiona
Gaston
Hermine
Ian
Julia
Karl
Lisa
Matthew
Nicole
Otto
Paula
Richard
Shary
Tobias
Virginie
Walter
Arlene
Bret
Cindy
Don
Emily
Franklin
Gert
Harvey
Irma
Jose
Katia
Lee
Maria
Nate
Ophelia
Philippe
Rina
Sean
Tammy
Vince
Whitney
Alberto
Beryl
Chris
Debby
Ernesto
Florence
Gordon
Helene
Isaac
Joyce
Kirk
Leslie
Michael
Nadine
Oscar
Patty
Rafael
Sara
Tony
Valerie
William
Andrea
Barry
Chantal
Dorian
Erin
Fernand
Gabrielle
Humberto
Imelda
Jerry
Karen
Lorenzo
Melissa
Nestor
Olga
Pablo
Rebekah
Sebastien
Tanya
Van
Wendy

National Hurricane Center – Tropical Cyclone Names (with pronunciation guide)6

The U.S. has calculated death tolls and costs of hurricanes since 1851.7 The deadliest storm on record occurred in 1900, when the Galveston Hurricane led to the deaths of 8,000 people. In comparison, Hurricane Katrina, the third deadliest hurricane, directly claimed the lives of 1,200.7

Despite all we have learned from the past, more advanced storm-tracking technology, and improved communication strategies to alert residents of an oncoming storm, some residents choose to stay put. A 2006 Harvard School of Public Health study finds:

“One-third (33%) of residents said if government officials said they had to evacuate due to a major hurricane this season, they would not or are unsure if they would leave. Homeowners (39%), whites (41%) and long-term residents (45%) are the groups most likely to ride out a major hurricane. People with children under 18 are less likely to remain in their homes (26%). Mobile home owners are no more likely to evacuate than the general public.”8

During a storm, be prepared and listen for weather service announcements. Weather alert services come in two forms. The National Weather Service issues hurricane watches within 48 hours of the storm hitting. This allows for time to prepare your home and review your plans. Hurricane warnings come within 36 hours of the storm hitting, giving you time to finish preparing your home and evacuate, if necessary. Listen to the TV, radio, or other media tracking the storm’s progress for recommendations on what course to take. The National Weather Service alerts as to the path, speed, and wind force of the approach hurricane.

From                        “Timely Tips When Disaster Strikes,” Judge Sherman G. Finesilver (1969)

From “Timely Tips When Disaster Strikes,” Judge Sherman G. Finesilver (1969). Click to enlarge.

Here are some further resources to help prepare you for a future event:

Tropical Cyclones: A Preparedness Guide
Red Cross Hurricane Preparedness
National Hurricane Center – Be Ready
National Center for Disaster Medicine and Public Health

References

1. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory. (2013). Global warming and hurricanes. Retrieved May 21, 2014, from http://www.gfdl.noaa.gov/global-warming-and-hurricanes

2. National Wildlife Federation. (2006). Increasing vulnerability to hurricanes: Global warming’s wake-up call for the U.S. Gulf and Atlantic coasts. Retrieved from http://www.nwf.org/~/media/PDFs/Global-Warming/Hurricanes_FNL_LoRes.ashx

3. NASA Mesoscale Atmospheric Processes Branch. (n.d.). Hurricane Georges. Retrieved May 21, 2014, from http://meso-a.gsfc.nasa.gov/rsd/images/Georges.html

4. National Hurricane Center. (1997). The deadliest Atlantic tropical cyclones, 1492-1996. Retrieved May 21, 2014, from http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/pastdeadly.shtml

5. World Meteorological Organization. (n.d.). Tropical cyclone programme. Retrieved May 21, 2014, from http://www.wmo.int/pages/prog/www/tcp/Storm-naming.html

6. National Hurricane Center. (n.d.). Tropical cyclone names. Retrieved May 21, 2014, from http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/aboutnames.shtml

7. Blake, E. S., Landsea, C. W., & Gibney, E. J. (2011). The deadliest, costliest, and most intense United States tropical cyclones from 1851 to 2010 (and other frequently requested hurricane facts) (No. NOA A Technical Memorandum NWS NHC – 6). NOAA. Retrieved from http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/general/lib/lib1/nhclib/nwstechmemos/nws-nhc-6.pdf

8. Blendon, R. J., Benson, J. M., Buhr, T., Weldon, K. J., & Herrmann, M. J. (2006). High-risk area hurricane survey (No. 20). Harvard School of Public Health. Retrieved from http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/horp/files/2012/09/WP20HighRiskHurricane.pdf