The best time to read a book on emergencies, disasters, and other mayhem is during the relative peace and quiet of an ordinary day at work. You see the way your library, archive, or museum works and how it serves the public. You consider different parts of the collection. And you have a head start in dealing with a future emergency to minimize loss and disruption.

Planning ahead gives you the opportunity to look at your institution and see it from the point of view of a recovery effort. While any disaster is unsettling and costly, damage can be lessened and some of the panic avoided.

Writing an emergency plan helps the staff accept the fact that emergencies can happen and that coping with them is primarily the responsibility of the institution. In the process, staff members become familiar with the building, emergency procedures and priorities within the collection.

This handbook is arranged by topics. The first section suggests some ways to prevent emergencies or at least lessen their impact. If your institution has not yet had a general preservation survey, this would be an excellent time to arrange for one. The survey report will point out possible sources of trouble.

Writing a disaster plan requires the cooperation of most staff members as well as that of people in the community and beyond. The second section covers various aspects of planning and includes sample forms to help you write your own plan.

Even with the most careful attention to preventive steps, emergencies will still happen. Response to an emergency varies with each situation; the third section discusses some of the actions needed to assess the situation and to begin the rescue operation.

The fourth section deals with recovery and describes methods for salvaging various materials in water emergencies. As a professional conservator and former librarian, I try to combine sound conservation methods with what is practical.

Sections Five, Six and Seven give sources of equipment, supplies, services, and people to call for help and advice. These sections were compiled specifically for the Lower Hudson Conference, which serves the New York State counties of Dutchess, Ulster, Putnam, Orange, Westchester, Rockland, and the Bronx, as well as the western Connecticut counties of Litchfield and Fairfield. Some of the resources are intentionally quite local; other references will be useful to institutions farther away.

Lower Hudson Conference of Historical Agencies & Museums is a regional service agency providing professional training, networking and technical assistance support to museums, historical societies, archives and libraries in the Hudson Valley. If you find errors or have new pertinent data that could be incorporated into future updates of this handbook, please contact:

Tema Harnik, Director
Lower Hudson Conference
2199 Saw Mill River Road,
Elmsford, NY 10523.
Phone: 914 592-6726;
Fax: 914 592-6946.

Nelly Balloffet

May, 1999