Winter 2012

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POLICY SPOTLIGHT Emergency Policies and Procedures

By Tim Gavin

Winter 2012 issue of Trustee

It was a long, brutal winter last year – not to mention a tough August, as we all dealt with consequences of Irene. Some libraries are still recovering. Let us hope that this year brings us a calmer winter, a faster spring, and fairer hurricane season.

But it is always best to be prepared.

Does you library have a disaster plan in place? Would you or your staff be prepared to mitigate damage to collections, equipment, and maintain services to patrons if your library sustained dam- age? It seems many libraries have policies in place to deal with fire emergencies, vandalism, and even bomb threats, but how prepared would your library be in the event of a flood?

Recently, I had the chance to speak with Ms. Sara Kipp, Director of Stillwater Free Library. Stillwater has the unfortunately distinction of hav- ing to deal with not one, but two flooding emer- gencies during the past year. The first came in late April as a result of thawing, rain and water being let in through the local dam. The second, of course, came in late August during Hurricane Irene.

How was the library able to communicate with the patrons and staff?

“We maintained great communication through Facebook mostly [and provided] updated pictures of water levels, the town workmen helping Board members fill and place sandbags. Twitter helps me update the website instantly . . .”

Could patrons still access library services?

During the April flood, “Services were online.

We also opened without parking, which was great. We had one little girl who came in Friday night to touch the carpet because she was so worried that water was ruining everything. For parking, many people were walking in the village to check out the river and any damage, so we had tons of walkers. [...] the
best was the kayakers coming to the library from the parking lot!”

What are some things that your library and town did well in preparation and response to the flooding?

The “Board President, Building and Grounds Chairperson, and [I] keep a close eye on our ‘home’ and automatically check it out of concern. I maintain contact with our Town Supervisor who is amazing during a crisis . . . I believe the whole thing went smoothly [and] I would say communi- cation and working together was the best thing we did.”

Thanks to Sara Kipp for sharing her insights and experiences!

Now, as winter continues and before the floodwaters start, it may be a good time to reassess your emergency procedures. Does your library have an emergency policy that you could share with your peers? If so, kindly send it so we can add it to our database. (Please contact:

If not, please do an advanced search on our policy database and select the policy category, “Emergency Procedures,” for some examples.

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