Diversity & Outreach Columns ALA's Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services

28Jan/11Off

Be Prepared! Emergency preparedness tips for bookmobilers

Bookmobile emergency kit

An example of an emergency kit

By: Pattie Johnston,
Outreach Services
Lawrence Public Library - Lawrence, KS

For bookmobile and outreach librarians, emergencies can be as varied as a sick child, flat tires, high winds or icy roads. Having a plan for common situations, as well as those that are unexpected, can limit uncertainty and chaos that may accompany an event. The most important aspect of any emergency plan is a staff that is aware of the potential emergencies and trained in how to react, whether the situation is a natural emergency, such as snowy roads or tornado warnings or an unexpected event, such as a flat tire in traffic or an ill patron. Though some situations may be addressed as it would be in the library building, bookmobile and outreach service librarians have unique issues that should be recognized in developing a plan of action. With any emergency, identify what would be needed to insure safety and security. Make a plan of action that includes staff, anyone on the bookmobile and the service area. Emergency First Responders will arrive as soon as possible but it is possible that staff will be responsible for their own safety and security until assistance from law, fire and medical or other officials arrive or until an all-clear is given. This may be as much as twenty minutes or more.

Begin by making a list of the natural emergencies that are common in your area. Do you have summer thunder storms with the potential for lightning, hail or tornadoes? Does flooding occur frequently in areas that staff must service or travel? Are snow and ice potential problems? Earthquakes or wildfires? Next, determine other possible situations that may happen. What should staff do if a patron or one of the library staff becomes ill or has an accident on the bookmobile. Does the staff know what to do if the library vehicle is involved in an accident or has a flat tire? What if the bookmobile cannot return to the library due to weather conditions or because of an incident at the library? By identifying the different the potential events, plans can be made that will make the staff confident in knowing how to handle the situation. Knowing what not to do is as important as what should be done

Here are some suggested questions or scenarios to consider in formulating an emergency policy:

  • Is severe weather imminent? Who determines decisions for cancelation of service? What plans are in place for returning to the Library or for seeking shelter?
  • Severe weather has suddenly occurred. Where am I? Does anyone else know where I am at this time?
  • What is the safest place for me to be? How do I get there? Is there an alternate route of escape?
  • How do I inform patrons or what is my responsibility for anyone on the bookmobile or in the location?
  • Who do I call? What do I do if I cannot call? Do not assume that cell phone service will be available.
  • My vehicle is damaged. Who do I call for assistance?
  • Someone is injured. What is my procedure?

An emergency kit with materials and supplies that would be helpful in any emergency should be on all bookmobiles or library vehicles. Mark the container so that it is readily recognizable. Store it in an easily accessible place on the vehicle. Review the kit monthly for replenishing of the supplies or to make any changes in information.

Suggestions for the Kit:

  • Radio
  • Blanket
  • Cigarette Lighter
  • Flashlight and/or light wands
  • Garbage bags-several rolled together instead of a box
  • Batteries for radio & flashlight
  • Moist towelettes & soap
  • First Aid Kit
  • Hammer
  • Lid gripper
  • Spray disinfectant
  • Disposable gloves
  • Vehicular Flashers
  • Water
  • Notebook
  • A Whistle—hang whistle near driver side seat, not in the emergency box

Also, have a listing of names and phone numbers of Library contacts, personal emergency contacts, towing service/vehicle service dealer, vehicle registration-insurance-title, outreach service schedule with site contact information plus brief summaries of procedures. Keeping the pages in plastic sleeves will protect the papers as well as making it easy to make needed changes.

Contact the local emergency preparedness office, police/sheriff departments or the American Red Cross for assistance in developing the best procedures and for training of bookmobile and outreach staff. Making plans before an emergency gives any staff the opportunity to provide good service with confidence and security.

*Correction Note : The article was originally incorrectly attributed; Rose Huling coordinated article submissions, but Pattie Johnston was the author. OLOS Columns regrets the error.

4Jan/11Off

Making the Literacy Connection: a Call to Action

ALA Committee on Literacy chair Juliet I. Machie, deputy director of the Detroit Public Library, discusses the vital role that librarians  must play in combating illiteracy in their communities.