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Emergency Preparedness: Flood Response and Recovery


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Floods can damage collections in multiple ways.  The sheer impact of rushing and rising waters can knock over bookshelves and tear and/or scatter documents. Even if books initially remain on bookshelves, water can cause the paper in the books to expand, swelling book bindings to the point where loosely stacked books may pop off the shelves.  Water can dissolve inks, colorants and other components of letters, prints, photographs and books. More importantly, flood waters are often dirty or contaminated, depositing soil, mud or worse on precious family treasures. Following flooding, residual dampness can lead to the growth of mold, which can cause health problems for humans and disfigure books and papers.  Some papers, such as clay-coated bookplates, can also stick or “block” together.  Despite these dire circumstances, there are actions that can be taken to salvage collections of flood-damaged papers, prints, books and even audiovisual materials such as films, tapes, CDs and DVDs.

For more information, see the following links:

Response to Floods and Water Damage for Libraries, Archives, Museums, and Other Repositories - provides extensive guidance for preparedness, response, and salvage.

When the Waters Rise - summarizes key steps in flood response.

Quick Reference: Disaster Response and Recovery - provides information for immediate use by institutions and individuals faced with collection salvage and recovery.

Video demonstration of how to wash CDs

Video demonstration of how to wash audio cassettes

Video demonstration of how to wash video cassettes

Recommendations are compiled here to provide a convenient, efficient access to key concepts for reducing risks and responding to or recovering from flood-related emergencies. These suggestions are general, and based on good practice in libraries, archives, museums, and other collections-holding institutions. They may be superseded by requirements of a specific institution or emergency, or by the instructions of civil defense or other emergency responders.

Find additional general sources of assistance at the:


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