Disaster Planning




Disaster Planning: How to Prepare Your Library
“Lessons Learned from the Flood of 2007”

By: Multiple Staff from the Findlay-Hancock County Public Library


On August 21, 2007, the Findlay-Hancock County Public Library’s lower level was destroyed by flooding that occurred in Findlay, Ohio. The lower level of the building had nearly eight feet of storm water. As a result of the flood, positive changes were made that would prepare the library for unforeseen disasters in the future.







Our Story

Immediate efforts to restore the library started as soon as it was safe to enter the building. A flood restoration firm from Cincinnati, Ohio was hired to pump out over one million gallons of water from the building.  However, the most critical issue was to reestablish power. All of the mechanical systems were located in the lower level of the building including: electrical, heating/cooling, elevators, telephone connections, etc. All of the mechanical systems had to be replaced or rebuilt.

Fortunately books and other materials in the collection were not damaged as the main floor is located above the base flood elevation. To prevent materials damage from the high humidity the restoration firm removed window panes from the library atrium and inserted huge blower tubes to circulate the air. The library was closed from August 21 – December 4, 2007 while these measures were put into place.
After the building was stabilized, planning for the future began. An extensive reconstruction and remodeling project was undertaken. Critical electrical components were moved above the base flood elevation to minimize the risk of future exposure to flooding. The Administrative Office and Technical Services Office were relocated from the lower level to the first floor. The lower level was rebuilt with no drywall or carpet to lessen financial losses in the event of another flood. Virtually every piece of remaining furniture or shelving on the lower level is now equipped with wheels for easy and quick removal.  (Good idea for Small Libraries!)  The remodeled library was presented to the public at a grand opening event on January 11, 2009.



Lessons Learned: What Can You Do?

The experiences of a year and a half of flood recovery and reconstruction could fill a small book. However for the purpose of this article, there were general lessons learned that can hopefully be helpful to other libraries in Ohio.

First, choose your critical early responders and initiate a working relationship with them. The responders include
INSURANCE AGENT– who can be invaluable source of information and assistance

 REMEDIATION COMPANY– who can begin the clean-up and restoration process as soon as possible 

 MATERIALS PRESERVATION COMPANY– to quickly begin saving valuable items (Especially if you have material water damage–they will give great advice on onsite freezing/drying/mold extermination techniques that you can do yourself before a team comes)
   *For more information or to purchase an Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel ($8.95) go to Heritage Preservation Online

MEDIA– who can assist in communicating information regarding the library to a mass audience.

It is important to have a plan regarding your emergency operational team.

Who will be on the team?
Where will they meet?
What are each member’s duties?

 Designate at least one person to be in charge of communicating with the entire staff. These are anxious times for the staff. They will be worried about co-workers, the collection, the building, and their next paycheck.

Protect important records and data. Whether on-site or off-site, it is important that critical records be maintained in an area that is as safe as possible.

From the perspective of the Facilities Manager, the pre-disaster emphasis should be on inventory control. Stockpiled supplies that no longer have use with organizational functions need to be discarded. The recovery/removal costs following the flood were worsened because of the librarys’ excessive storage of bulk craft supplies, outdated electronics, and other miscellaneous equipment.

The location of storage items deserves periodic and serious review. The lower level is the most common place to find the bulk of an organization’s storage. Even if a library is not directly exposed to river or storm flooding, the lower level is always vulnerable to internal flooding from water main bursts or fire suppression equipment.

It is recommended that for items that need to be left in the lower levels, do your best to create storage at least a couple of feet off of the floor, and try to keep storage units with shelves near the floor mounted on wheels so they can be easily moved in the event of flooding. Keeping supplies in containers is also a simple but important part of an evacuation response plan. Maintain building documents and floor plans in a safe place. These will prove invaluable during clean-up and reconstruction.

No library, large or small, can be perfectly prepared for disaster. We live in a wonderfully unpredictable world. With memories of a natural disaster fresh in our minds, the Findlay-Hancock County Public Library will remain mindful of the lessons learned during the flood of 2007 and will continually strive to improve our preparedness for the future. We hope that our loss can prevent yours…




















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