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New Hampshire State Library

For Librarians - Flooding & Other Water Damage

Planning for a Water Disaster

1. Know your property and your building.  Water and mud can come from any direction -- up, down, and/or sideways – and from many sources: rising floodwaters; flowing groundwater; snow runoff on frozen ground; leaking roof; frozen, stressed and bent pipes; overflowing drains; damaged gutters; storm surge or high tides…

2. If you have an automatic thermostat (one with day/night or home/away settings), don’t set the temperatures more than 5 degrees apart; a sudden cold snap in the weather can also mean a snap in the pipes, and a cascade of water – clean or contaminated – is the last thing you want to see or hear when you arrive the day after a weekend or holiday.

3. Check that the places water should go out are open – floor drains, sump pumps, roof drains and gutters, etc.  (Also make sure sewer-vent pipes are not clogged; they may not admit water, but they can keep odors in the building.)

4. Clear the roof of ice jams and excessive snow.  This is work for professionals (not professional librarians); NH librarians and trustees have broken body parts doing this sort of work.

5. Work with public works crews to avoid having large piles of snow uphill of the library; they may melt rapidly and flow into the building.  Consider preventative, diverting sandbagging or trenching.  This is also work for professionals.

6. If anything that you want to keep dry is on or within a few inches of the floor:

  • Put it on a shelf
  • Put it on a pallet or other raised device
  • Put it in a plastic bin (not a laundry basket with ventilation slits!)
  • If it’s too large or heavy to move (e.g., a massive library table), wrap its lower legs in plastic booties, sandbag it, or otherwise try to keep water away from it.

Now – have the most detail-oriented, picky person available check for the stuff on the floor that you overlooked.

Remember to search storage areas; you don’t’ want to discover months later that the treasures you don’t bring out every day were soaked, crushed, or warped by flood waters and not found until it was too late for salvage.  Or found only because of the stench of mold and the gasping of asthmatic staff.

7. Have rolls of plastic sheeting and waterproof tape on hand to cover things if water comes down – and know where you can get lots of super-absorbent paper towels 24/7/366.  Don’t skimp on quality.

8. If there is melting or flooding going on, check the library frequently – at least a couple of times a day AND night – don’t let a small problem get to be a big one.  

9. Consider installing a furnace alarm, a freeze alarm, and a rising-water alarm; consult your local alarm company.

10. If you see or hear flooding, leaking, or flowing water at the library, try to identify the source if it’s possible and safe.  If it could be from the sewer or flowing up from or through the septic tank, consider it a biohazard until proved otherwise, and GET OUT

11. If the roof is creaking, doors are sticking, ceiling tiles are drooping, sprinkler heads are sagging, or the ceiling is moving, it is not safe to stay in the building.  GET OUT! 

12. Have a list of staff, trustees, Friends, friends, helpful groups (e.g., Scouts) and contact numbers readily available.  Remember that if the water trouble is widespread, groups like the Fire Department and Department of Public Works will be busy elsewhere, too. 

13. If you need a bunch of help, remember that they will need food and, yes, potable water!  And coffee.  And soft drinks (some with sugar, some without).

NH State Library
Library Development Services
February 29, 2008

Salvaging Materials from a Clean Water Disaster

1. Identify the water source.  Is it clean water?  If it’s dirt-filled, seek professional assistance.  If it’s sewer water, get out and summon help – you have a biohazard.  Consult your Fire and/or EMS Department for resources.

2. Keep the temperature in the disaster area below 65 degrees F.; keep the humidity low, preferably between 40% and 45%.  Mold is your long-term enemy. 

3. Prepare an off-site work area, preferably nearby.  Keep the temperature there also below 65 degrees F. and the relative humidity between 40% and 45%.

4. Rescue and assemble your finding aids – shelf list, catalog, etc.

5. Triage (sort your materials by category):

  • Valuable Materials - irreplaceable, archival, historic, aesthetic…
  • Wet, unsalvageable - glossy paper items, replaceable items
  • Wet, salvageable - includes individual volumes of otherwise safe sets
  • Damp or wet edges
  • Dry

6.   Salvage

A)  Valuable

  • -individual attention of professionals
  • -do not open, close, stack, unstack, etc.
  • -bring them out as they are
  • -barring advice to the contrary, place “as  is” in frost free freezer

B)  Wet, unsalvageable

  • -remove to a separate area for later identification and disposal
  • -remove from the library to lower the humidity in the building

C)  Wet, salvageable

  • -move flat in plastic milk cartons, bread trays, etc.  Do not stack
  • -move to wet-treatment area (see #7)

D)  Damp or wet edges

  • -interleave with paper towels about every 20 pages, plus inside front and back covers
  • -move to damp-treatment area (see #7)

E)  Dry

  • -remove to cool (below 65 degrees F.), dry (45% or less relative humidity) area
  • -stand on TOP edges (upside down) [to correct sag]

7. Treatment (wet and damp areas)

  • clean, dry, cool area with dehumidifiers and fans *
  • -plastic-covered floors (tack down if possible, and warn workers about slipping)
  • -plastic-covered tables as needed
  • -interleave with paper towels and stand on top edge with pages fanned open
  • -replace paper towels as they get wet (every 2 hours)
  • -circulate air indirectly -- *no fans blowing directly on the books (it spreads mold spores)
  • -run dehumidifiers and empty them frequently.

CAVEAT:  This is a short list of general procedures.  Modify as necessary and be creative.  

                 Add sense of humor as available.  You will need it.

Compiled frm a variety of sources

Thomas A Ladd
NH State Library
Library Development Services
February 29, 2008

Selected Additional Resources:

Wet Books: The Air Dry Method - from Dartmouth College

dPlan - The Online Disaster-Planning Tool - from NEDCC

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