International Congress on Archives
What to do when the flood appears? Theoretically
For an archive as well as for library a disaster such as flood is an unexpected event which puts any
collection at risk. Disaster planning is a matter of basic security for archives, their staff and their collections.
Theoretically it is considered to be an essential part of any preservation programme to be implemented by
every kind of archives or libraries.
Disaster plans usually involve 4 phases:
Prevention identify and minimize (remove or reduce) the risks posed by the building its equipment
and fittings and any natural hazards at the affected area.
Preparedness getting ready to cope. The obligatory need to undertake and maintain an emergency
Response when disaster strikes - reaction
Recovery getting back to normal, this is a post-disaster stage, which does not include the immediate
urgency of the preceding stages.
Each part includes many subjects to work on and to be implement in advanced.
The question: what to do when the flood appears? contains the topic of RESPONSE.
This part covers the period from raising of the alarm to the air-drying or stabilisation of damaged holdings. It is
important to note that all phases are correlated closely.
When disaster strikes one should:
follow already established emergency procedures for rising the alarm, evacuate personnel (if needed)
and make the disaster site safe
contact the leader of the disaster response team to direct succinctly the trained salvage personnel
when permission is given to enter the site, make a preliminary assessment of the extent of the damage
and the equipment, supplies and services required
stabilize the environment to prevent the growth of mould
photograph damaged materials for insurances claim purposes
set up an area for recording and packing materials which requires freezing and/or an area for air-drying
transport water-damaged items to the nearest available freezing facility.
There is a lot of detail to go into on how to enhance each of the reaction parts, but because of the lack of
time, there is a bibliography at the end of this presentation which could give more useful procedures and all kind
What should be stressed here is that appropriate response to disaster can make the difference between severe
loss and successful salvage.
There is one clear rule for response to water damage: the faster the correct action is, the better is the result.
After 48-72 hours mould starts to grow. The better the response effort is organized in advance, the better the
chances are to save material, reducing damage and cutting costs.
Apart everything - this is not the ideal world and not everyone has access to all salvage technologies. If for
example air-drying is the only choice available, then care should be taken that it is the best air-drying under the
best conditions which can be provided.
Do the best that is possible under the circumstances you have to deal with, but do it as quickly as possible.
When the response phase is completed be sure that all people involved are thanked sincerely and
A detailed written and photographic report documenting the results of the effort should be made for
insurance purposes as well as for training causes in order to become better prepared if there is the next time. Use
all the statistics gathered so authorities can understand also what has been accomplished and where the effort
Recommend the appropriate techniques and methods for the recovery phase: including costs and staffing