Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! What happens when a hurricane wipes out the records of an entire city? What if a fire burns up a family’s ancestry or a local business’ records? Disasters happen every day, some a result of accidents, are natural. Preparation and planning are essential to help prevent damage and destruction that may result from a disaster. On May 1st each year archivists and heritage professionals around the world participate in MayDay. This day is a grassroots effort to raise awareness of archives and the potential disasters and dangers they face. Protecting our heritage is one of the primary responsibilities of these information professionals.
Some ideas for MayDay include running disaster drills (fire, foul weather, etc.), reviewing disaster plans and policies to ensure they are up to date, or preparing disaster kits for emergency situations. Organizations should keep these materials readily available and easily accessible to all staff members. These are just a few of the prevention measures practiced by Special Collections (SPCO) at UT Arlington. This is a disaster kit specifically for water emergencies. The kit contains tarping which can be purchased at any local hardware store, tape, and scissors. Nearby are copies of crisis plans, procedure manuals, and other helpful materials for SPCO staff.
Though we hope to never need to use them, it is important that at least once a year we review our procedures and know our role in preventing damage to the cultural history we are charged with protecting.
For more ideas, quick tips, and resources on disaster preparation and relief, visit the Society of American Archivists: http://www2.archivists.org/initiatives/mayday-saving-our-archives