Safe Haven

Hurricane Preparedness & Response for Florida Public Libraries

Hurricane in Atlantic ocean

Improving Florida Public Library Utilization in Community Hurricane Response

Service Role

The public library is the community’s living room and study before and after a storm with safe, secure buildings, relaxing space, light, air conditioning, bathrooms and comfortable chairs. Below are best practices.

Develop a Disaster Plan

Start by obtaining background:

Remember, a small disaster plan marshalling key assets is better than no disaster plan. A beginner’s mistake is to attempt a plan that is too large and ambitious. Advice: Start small and add a little each year.

Obtain Local "Essential Service" Status

  • FEMA does recognize public libraries’ "essential service" status.
  • Objective: local public library “essential service” status with county emergency management, local government and utilities;
  • "Essential service" means all will expedite public library restoration after a disaster. Specifically:
    • Public library managers will be allowed to assess library damage as soon as possible;
    • If a library can be re-opened, debris will be removed and minor damage repaired promptly;
    • Utilities, including telecommunications, will be restored rapidly;
    • Library personnel are assigned to the library during disaster recovery.
  • Miami-Dade County has agreed to restore three county agencies after a hurricane: police, fire and public libraries.
  • Visit emergency management, key local government leaders, local utility providers and others and Making the Case. PDF file

Participate in Coordinated Planning & Aid Efforts

  • For Regional Planning Efforts see:
    • Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC). COSTEP: Coordinated Statewide Emergency Preparedness: An emergency response framework for the cultural community. Retrieved November 5, 2008, from
    • SEFLIN. Disaster planning and recovery resources. For further information: Tom W. Sloan,, Executive Director SEFLIN Office 452, S.E. Wimberly Library, Florida Atlantic University 777 Glades Road, Boca Raton, FL 33431 Phone: 877-733-5460 (toll free); Fax: 561.208.0995

Prepare a Library Recovery Booklet

  • Objective 1: Identify all library recover resources needed and available from within the library, from local emergency management, local government, local sources (e.g., schools, Home Depot), regional, state and national sources.
  • Objective 2: Summarize recovery resource availability in a Library Recovery Booklet

Address Staff Training Needs

  • Every staff member needs to know his role in a disaster;
  • Every staff member needs to know why what he and the library does matters to the community;
  • Every staff member needs the training to do her job in a disaster.
  • There are a number of free online courses offered by FEMA NIMS and the Emergency Management Institute (EMI).

Plan For the Future

  • If the library or indeed the community is destroyed, it is an opportunity, at high cost, to rebuild better when you are least prepared to think about it. Do it now!
  • Participate in Florida Post-Disaster Redevelopment Planning.

Best Resources

Safe Haven Best Resources