Disaster Recovery Plan

A disaster recovery plan (DRP) is a document which describes the procedures devised to prevent and prepare for disaster, and those proposed to respond to and recover from disaster when they occur. [1] The two major types of disaster include floods and fires. Other list of causes of disasters are theft, insect infection, effect of light and temperature, tornadoes and storms and earthquake for certain countries. [2]

Mainly, the objectives of DRP are to minimise damage to the collections, recover and repair any damaged collection materials and return the herbarium activities/services to normal as soon as possible. [3]

In each of the recovery plan, there are certain issues that need to be sorted out before implementation of the plan. It is essential that consideration is given to all areas likely to be affected by the disaster such as personnel including staff and visitors, collections and records including archival records and building and equipment. [1]

Procedures for DRP are divided into three main phases namely ‘before’, ‘during’ and ‘after’ phase. The ‘before phase’ includes prevention and preparation procedures which correspond to everyday routine. For example, analysing possible risks, identification of important items in the collection and the training of staff to enable them to respond during a disaster. [4]

In the ‘during phase’, a response to the disaster must be made by locating the disaster physically with the aid of a detection system. Response procedures are done based on disaster levels, for example, evacuation and localisation of the evacuated samples. [4]

The ‘after phase’ includes recovery and reviewing procedures. In this phase, recovery plans are implemented. However, due to unique nature of every disaster, no specific plan can be made in detail. Reviewing procedures emphasizes on weaknesses and strengths of the current plan. Once the lesson learnt have been identified, the improvement or update of the original plan should be made and implemented in the future action plan and training courses. [4]

During the recovery procedure, safety is priority. The staff should not get into the building(s) until it is declared safe by maintenance and service personnel or fire brigade. They must be aware of the danger, such as slippery floors, burning plastic that may give off toxic gases and electrocution in water which may be fatal. The staff should be reminded to wear appropriate protective clothing, use appropriate methods for lifting heavy objects, have an adequate supply of refreshments and properly rested as some staff may need specialist counselling due to the traumatic incident. [5]

As the fire brigade declare that the building(s) safe, actions need to be taken by each role of the appointed staff, such as the Collections Recovery Coordinator, Photographer, Facilities Coordinator, Salvage Controller, Conservator and Recovery Team. [5]

During the recovery process Deputy Director acts as Collections Recovery Coordinator. Role of Collections Recover Coordinator are to appoint someone to deal with media enquiries so that the public will be updates on information of the disaster, Tasks that should be taken during the recovery process are affected area must be secured for example if area is flooded, arrange for the fire brigade to pump out the excess water, provide an adequate lighting and if necessary use torches, notify the insurance company regarding the disaster so that claims can be made, delegate the tasks to appointed staff/group(s) and to avoid worker fatigue shifts are allocated for every staff. Details of staffs and hours worked are recorded. The progress of the recovery process must be monitored and appropriate adjustment plans have to be made if necessary and ensure the senior management are kept informed of the progress. [5]  

A photographer should be appointed by Collections Recovery Coordinator for photographic record of the disaster. As it is for herbarium own records and to substantiate any insurance claim. The photographer will be responsible to photograph the disaster area, specific shelves and damaged materials and salvage operations process. [5]

Facilities Coordinator is responsible to ensure equipment for the Recovery Team to clean, salvage and stabilise collection materials are adequate including organising treatment facilities as required. Tasks that should be handled by Facilities Coordinator are stabilise the environment by keep air-conditioning operational and control the temperature as it should be around 180C and 50% for the relative humidity to prevent the growth of mould. If the specimens collection become affected by mould, they need to be treated with fungicides by professionals. If possible, ensure that the disaster area have an adequate air circulation by opening the windows and doors. Other than that, the Facilities Coordinator need to liaise with Salvage Controller about extent of need for equipment such as dry vacuum, mops, plastic bags and others as required. [5]

A Salvage Controller needs to organise and appoint recovery team which should consists not more than five persons. A fully brief needs to be given to all recovery team to ensure clear instruction about operational procedures are followed. The Salvage Controller is responsible to provide guidance on sorting specimens collection for ensuring the specimens collection have the most appropriate treatment for their condition. For all specimens collection that being relocated from the collections area should be recorded by completing the evacuation of specimens collection form. [5]

A Conservator is responsible to help the Salvage Controller and recovery team in sorting specimens collection by providing advice on-site. Other than that, the Conservator also needs to handle specimens collection which need urgent specialised conservation work. [5]

Mainly recovery team roles are to do initial clean up, salvaging and sorting specimens collection into treatment categories and stabilisation of specimens collection. Clean up procedures is by removing the obstacles from obstructing the recovery process. For salvage and sorting procedure, the specimens collection should be sorted into categories according to their treatment needs. [5] A simple classification system should be established before beginning the salvage procedure such as Priority A for specimens collection that need immediate treatment by staff, Priority B for immediate treatment by Conservator and Priority C for essentially stable and can be treated later. [2] Usually specimens collection should be air-dried or warm air-dried immediately or get a professional treatment. If the specimen collection had major damaged to recover, the Salvage Controller must be consulted before any specimens collection are deemed unrecoverable and it must be recorded. Meanwhile for stabilisation procedure, the specimens collection should be packed into plastic bags and place flat in boxes for transporting as soon as possible. [5]

Once the building(s) is stabilised and return to normal, it is essential to monitored all areas that have been wet are completely dry to ensure no further damage occurs. The Facilities Coordinator should get the approval from Collection Recovery Coordinator to arrange for the cleaning, repair or replacement of damaged items. [5] Meanwhile the management should has a debriefing session to evaluate the effectiveness of the current DRP and make an improvements if necessary. A safety plan is not a static document but a plan to be used, evaluated and modified as changes in knowledge and circumstances. [2]


  1. Lyall J. Disaster planning for libraries and archives: understanding the essential issues. Provenance [serial on the Internet]. 1996 [updated 1997 Oct 05; cited 2021 Feb 17];1(2). Available from: https://www.netpac.com/provenance/vol1/no2/features/lyall1.htm
  2. Guidelines for Identifying and Preventing Fire Risks to Heritage Buildings and Collections. Fire Research Report. Opus Consulting Ltd. November 2004. [cited 24 February 2021] ISBN 1-877349-13-5. Available from: https://fireandemergency.nz/assets/Documents/Research-and-reports/Report-48-Guidelines-for-Identifying-and-Preventing-Fire-Risks-to-Heritage-Buildings-and-Collections.pdf
  3. Newey A, Lepschi B, Croft J.A disaster recovery plan for the Australian National Herbarium Canberra. Canberra:Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research; 2008. Introduction. [cited 2021 Feb 22]. Available from: http://www.anbg.gov.au/cpbr/disaster-plan/1-Introduction.html
  4. Issa AO, Aliyu MB, Adedeji AF, Rachel AB. Disaster preparedness at the State Public Library, Ilorin, Kwara State, Nigeria. Library Philosophy and Practice [serial on the Internet]. 2012. [cited 2021 Feb 17];712. Available from: https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/libphilprac/712
  5. Newey A, Lepschi B, Croft J.A disaster recovery plan for the Australian National Herbarium Canberra. Recovery. Canberra:Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research; 2008. Recovery. [cited 2021 Feb 24] Available from: https://www.anbg.gov.au/cpbr/disaster-plan/4-Recovery.html