A good plan can determine whether a cultural collection survives a disaster or fades into memory. And while nature can be unpredictable, the online disaster-planning portal “dPlan” offers a streamlined, reliable way for institutions to protect their cultural collections.
“Anyone who is charged with creating a disaster plan worries that their efforts will not be comprehensive enough or accurate enough,” Lori Foley, a preservation expert at the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC), said. “dPlan provides fill-in-the-blank templates to guide users and help ensure that all bases are covered.”
Created through funding by the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, dPlan is a free, online tool that allows cultural institutions to complete a customizable disaster plan for their organizations. NEDCC, a nonprofit regional center for the preservation and conservation of paper-based materials, and the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC), developed the tool.
“The two organizations worked very closely throughout the project, determining what should – and should not – be included in a fill-in-the-blank disaster plan template, how it should be presented and what features would make the most useful tool,” Foley said.
Additional funding came from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. After a pilot program proved successful in Massachusetts, dplan was made available to institutions nationwide.
The program is based on the four facets of a disaster: Prevention, Preparedness, Response and Recovery. These facets address the three phases of a disaster: before, during and after.
“dPlan’s goals are to streamline and clarify the time-consuming disaster-planning process,” Foley said. “We hope this encourages more institutions to have their plans in place.”
dPlan’s customized disaster plan feature includes disaster response procedures, salvage priorities, preventive maintenance schedules, current contact information for staff and emergency personnel and sources of emergency supplies and services. Insurance checklists and electronic data backup and restoration procedures are also included.
While the program primarily deals with readiness for major disasters such as earthquakes, fires and flooding, it also covers smaller problems like pets, mold and leaking pipes, which are more often the culprits in negatively affecting a collection.
For example, dPlan requires the user to enter contact information about the plumber or facilities manager – the person who would address the leaky pipe. It also provides step-by-step actions to save collections damaged by leaky pipes and to prevent damage to unaffected collections.
The program is easy to use and includes a demonstration program. To begin, users can visit www.dplan.org and select “DEMO.” The program will prompt users to select the login name, “email@example.com,” and password, “demo.” The user can then fill in sample templates and preview a formatted report.
Once the user begins work on the institution’s actual disaster plan, the program saves draft versions as the data are entered.
Foley warns dPlan users that disaster planning is not a one-time event.
“Effective disaster planning is ongoing. Writing a plan and then filing it away defeats the purpose,” she said.
Plans written on the program are stored in a secured server, and update reminders are sent automatically every six months so institutions can update their contact, supplier and resource information.
Alan Lester, senior curator of the recently renovated Mary Baker Eddy Library for the Betterment of Humanity in Boston, said dPlan simplified the disaster plan process for him.
“dPlan brought the process into focus,” he said. “Standardized forms meant I didn’t have to recreate the wheel. The program offered the flexibility and guidance necessary to meet the unique needs of our institution sharing facilities and resources with The First Church of Christ, Scientist.”
Foley said while it may not directly benefit them, the general public will indirectly reap rewards from dPlan’s implementation.
“The targeted audience for dPlan is not the general public but rather the organizations it trusts to care for our cultural heritage,” she said. “The public can most benefit from dPlan by encouraging their local cultural institutions to use the tool to create a customized disaster plan.”
Originally published on August 10, 2009.