The Precipitation Problem: Responding to Flooding in Collections
If your institution has experienced flooding, there are a number of organizations and resources that can provide help. For immediate assistance, contact the CCAHA 24/7 Disaster Hotline at (202) 661-8068, the New York State Archives at (518) 474-6926, or Barbara Lilley at the State Library at 518-486-4864.
Act Swiftly: When a flood occurs, time is of the essence. Respond quickly to minimize the damage:
- Ensure the safety of staff and visitors before attending to collections.
- Turn off electricity to prevent electrical hazards.
- Block off flooded areas to restrict access and prevent further water infiltration.
- Contact relevant emergency services and inform them about the flooding incident.
Prioritize Salvage Operations: Once it is safe to enter the affected area, focus on salvage efforts to minimize the impact on collections:
- Wear protective clothing, gloves, and masks to avoid potential contamination.
- Remove wet items from affected areas and transport them to a designated recovery space.
- Prioritize salvage based on the level of damage and significance of the materials.
- Separate damp or wet items to prevent mold growth and further deterioration.
- Freeze wet materials, such as photographs or books, to halt deterioration until professional conservation assistance is available.
- Fact sheet: Salvaging Water-Damaged Family Valuables and Treasures (fema.gov) (https://www.fema.gov/sites/default/files/2020-05/SalvagingFamilyValuables_sept2018.pdf
Seek Professional Assistance: In the aftermath of a flood, it is crucial to consult with professionals experienced in collection recovery and conservation:
- Contact professional conservators or disaster recovery specialists who specialize in handling water-damaged materials.
- In addition to the CCAHA New York State Library and Archives numbers listed above, the National Heritage Responders (https://www.culturalheritage.org/resources/emergencies/national-heritage-responders available to assist throughout New York State. The 24/7 hotline is: 202.661.8068
Document and Assess the Damage: Maintain thorough documentation of the flood's impact on your collections. This documentation is crucial for insurance claims and future preventive measures:
- Take detailed photographs of the affected areas and damaged items.
- Document the extent of the damage, including water levels, environmental conditions, and duration of exposure.
- Assess the significance and value of the damaged materials to prioritize conservation and restoration efforts.
Image: Heavy flooding on Sunday washed out part of the Palisades Interstate Parkway in Rockland County, N.Y. New York State Police, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images