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Disaster Guides


These guidelines are for immediate response. Call 717-783-3281 for more information.


Localized Flooding


  • Avoid storing records in basements, under water pipes, or directly on the floor. A simple means of raising records off the floor is to place them on pallets—ideally plastic.
  • Locate all your drains and have them checked regularly. Locate shutoff valves.
  • Regularly inspect the sprinkler system, and check the general condition of the records storage site to determine if the area is susceptible to flooding, if the building has structural defects, if the roof is developing leaks, etc.
  • Identify potential water hazards during routine inspections of the plumbing and drains.
  • Do not install carpet in records storage areas.
  • Back up Electronic Records.

Immediate Response

  • Stop the source of the water. Ensure that there are no live wires in the flooded area.
  • Move items from the affected area. If they cannot be moved, cover with plastic.
  • Prioritize:
    • Special collections/media
    • Mostly dry
    • Mostly damp
    • Completely saturated
  • When removing records from storage areas, be sure to keep track of identifying information.
  • Stabilize the environment to prevent mold:
    • Set up fans to circulate air
    • Pump out and mop up standing water
    • Remove any wet debris or carpets
    • Utilize dehumidifiers to lower the humidity
    • Keep the temperature low

Paper Records

  • If materials are slightly damp and the quantity is limited, air-dry the records.
    • Spread out documents on tables and run fans, but do not point directly at records.
    • Bound volumes can be fanned out if binding allows.
    • Interleave wetter materials with thin absorbent sheets.
      • Approximately every 10 pages
      • Change out absorbent material every hour or so
  • If records are saturated, wrap in plastic bags and freeze the records.
  • If records are soiled with wet mud, gently rinse in clean, cold water, before setting up to air-dry or freeze.

Photographs and Negatives

  • Separate photos from frames, storage enclosures, and/or each other.
  • Lay out emulsion side up.
  • Avoid touching emulsion.
  • If photos are stuck to glass or to each other, freeze.


  • Handle as little as possible.
  • Put microfilm in clean (if possible distilled) water as quickly as possible.
  • A professional microfilm processing company will need to clean.

Electronic and Magnetic Media

  • Rely on back-ups for recovery
  • Magnetic tapes - rinse in clean water, hand dry all external surfaces with a soft, lint proof cloth and air-dry the tape using a tape winder to run the tapes from reel to reel. A company specializing in magnetic tape restoration should be consulted.
  • Drain and blot floppy diskettes with soft, lint-proof cloth. Peel the jacket away from the diskette and rinse the diskette with distilled water. Drain the diskette and place flat; blot and air dry approximately eight hours.
  • Optical media should be rinsed in cool, clean water.

Insects and Vermin


  • Prohibit the presence of food or beverages or plants where records are kept.
  • Clear outside vegetation from direct building contact.
  • Seal cracks and holes to limit the entrance of insects and rodents from the outside.
  • Keep records out of damp and dirty areas.
  • Strive for a low relative humidity in collections areas - moisture attracts critters.
  • Have a maintenance plan for eradicating insects and vermin by scheduled spraying and traps.
  • Inspect newly received records and supplies for insects or rodents. Don't take them in if they are contaminated.

Immediate Response

  • If you find insects or larvae in your collections, freeze the records for a period of 72 hours prior to placing them with other original material. Wrap the records in plastic and place them in a chest freezer that can sustain a low temperature. This technique will kill the insects, the larvae and the insect eggs.
  • Catch rodents with traps. Dispose of carcasses as soon as possible, a rotting carcass can attract other rodents, making the problem worse.
  • Sticky traps often work best for insects and vermin. Place them on known routes of travel—generally along walls.