Emergency Response: Zombies and Risks to Repositories

Is your library prepared for the zombie horde?

Librarians face an awesome task in preserving human knowledge.  As defenders of our collective cultural heritage, we have come up with disaster response plans for situations like floods and fires.  Moreover, we have been leaders in digital preservation, and seek to safeguard electronic resources by creating Trusted Digital Repositories based on the OAIS model, or use programs like LOCKSS.  Where librarians have failed though is in our response to zombies.  When confronted with a zombie outbreak is your library prepared?

While not yet approved by the Library of Congress, the following steps will help ensure a successful recovery when your library is faced with the unthinkable.

Zombies can damage collections in many ways.  Book shelves may be pushed over and books, papers, and photographs dropped, broken, scattered and covered in biological hazard waste.  Biohazard may be contaminated with debris, can leak into drawers, and can lead to mold growth, as well as cause bleeding of inks and staining.  When biohazard dries, it can become caked on materials, in some cases making it more difficult to remove without further damage to collections.  However, it may be possible to salvage, dry, or clean wet and damaged collections.  In general, resources for salvage and recovery after floods apply.

Frequency of Outbreaks: Each decade roughly 160 zombie outbreaks occur, with the annual numbers of active zombie outbreaks averaging between 50-70. Between 1990-1999, 154 zombie outbreaks occurred. At any one time, about 20 zombie hot-spots are actively erupting. Zombie outbreak periods vary, with the median duration being seven weeks, roughly 10% of outbreaks lasting a day, while most outbreaks last less than three months. Relatively few last longer than three years, although fifteen outbreaks have been erupting for the last three decades. To discover how many active zombie outbreaks are in an area or to locate a zombie outbreak by region, name, or outbreak date, use the Global Zombie Outbreak Program “Undead of the World” Website of the Smithsonian Institution at: http://www.zombie.si.edu/world/ or see http://www.geo.mtu.edu/undead/world.html.

Most Vulnerable Collections Items: In most repositories the most vulnerable materials to zombie outbreaks are:

  • all collections on open shelves, which can be coated with corrosive and potentially acidic biohazard waste,
  • archival materials, particularly architectural drawings and plans, digital media, documents on paper, magnetic recordings, microfilm, moving image and sound recordings, and photographs and film, which may suffer abrasion, embrittlement, oxidation, loss of data, and silvering out,
  • artworks, particularly chalk, charcoal, collages, conte crayon, gouache, montages, paintings, both on canvas and on panels, polychrome sculptures, and watercolors,
  • bone and ivory, which may be abraded, discolored or stained, or lose applied color,
  • baskets and similar fibrous materials, such as sandals, which may be abraded by sharp teeth, stained, or lose color
  • ceramics, which may be abraded, scratched, or lose color,
  • furniture/wood, which may loose surface finish or suffer oxidation of attached metals,
  • glass, which may be abraded or scratched,
  • metal objects, which may be scratched or oxidized—as silver may corrode due to fumes and toxic gases,
  • natural history specimens, which may be eaten, stained or covered with biohazard waste, and
  • textiles, which may suffer from staining or weakening.

Most Frequent Types of Collection Damage: Zombie bites, misdirected violence, and biohazard waste pose particular threats as they:

  • corrode and oxidize metal, film, microfilm, and photographs,
  • damage surface finishes on paper, photographs, wood, textiles, and other objects,
  • destroy digital and magnetic media, particularly audiotapes, digital files, software, and videotapes,
  • embrittle paper, photographs, textiles, and other objects, and
  • fade and/or stain art work or paper.

Zombie Damage Prevention: When designing a new facility:

  • Avoid placing the repository or any offsite storage, work, exhibit, or reading room areas within a 100 miles of active zombie outbreaks and graveyards.
  • Avoid situating your repository near any road, or river, valley, or other geological feature that could lead zombie mobs or desperate humans to the repository.
  • Avoid building windows on the first floor, and be sure to use steel doors and reinforced concrete in the new building.

Basic Preparations: Prepare your repository to deal with zombie issues:

  • Purchase vacuuming equipment with a water filtration system for use in cleaning away biohazard waste.
  • Purchase special furnace filters for screening out particulate biohazard waste.
  • Train staff members how to totally shut down the repository air intake system and tape up all ducts, valves, vents, and windows.
  • Invest in a wide array of firearms and ammunition.
  • Have adequate emergency supplies, personal protective equipment, evacuation transportation, fuel, and staff escape routes planned.

During a Zombie Outbreak Alert: If a zombie outbreak alert is announced:

  • Evacuate visitors and non-essential staff first.
  • Work with essential staff to evacuate high value collections to either the highest available ground within your facility or to a pre-selected safe and prepared facility remote (at least 20 miles) from the zombie outbreak.

If Evacuation Seems Likely:

  • Listen to emergency band radio for instructions.
  • Staff should change into long-sleeved shirts and pants, locate goggles and dust-masks, and where possible, rated breathing apparatuses that have been fitted to each staff member.
  • Turn off all air intake equipment.
  • Ensure that the ducts, vents, window gaps, poorly grouted areas, chimneys, and air intakes are taped shut. Place additional coverings over chimneys and air intakes if possible.
  • Close all books and cabinets before leaving.
  • Turn off, disconnect, extinguish all fires, and cover all office equipment, especially computers and printers, appliances, and electrical equipment except essential emergency equipment.
  • Shut down utilities.
  • Wrap fragile materials and shelves in plastic to prevent biohazard waste buildup.
  • Remove all sources of humidity, such as dehumidifier pans and standing water, as biohazard waste combined with water can in some cases produce either a sulfuric acid or a cement-like composite that encases items.
  • Try to keep the humidity low through passive means such as conditioned silica gel in gasketed cabinets for high value materials.
  • Close and lock doors and windows, taping them shut if possible to limit the ability of drifting zombies and biohazard waste to get into the building.
  • Check all emergency supplies and emergency equipment before evacuating.
  • Fill evacuation vehicle gas tanks, bring along emergency gallons of gas, and ensure that the vehicles are operating properly.
  • Make sure staff is properly armed and in defensive patterns.

During Evacuation: Do the following:

  • Provide assistance to disabled and injured people.
  • Ensure that no one is left trapped in the building, such as in an elevator.
  • Notify authorities of any trapped individuals and their likely location.
  • Take the emergency plan and visitor log with you.
  • Keep evacuation vehicle gas tanks topped off to the extent possible.
  • Avoid leaving vehicle engines running longer than necessary as biohazard waste and fumes can destroy car and truck engines.
  • Listen to emergency band radios.
  • Evacuate as ordered when the alert occurs.
  • Use a cell phone or mobile phone, if possible, to determine if your evacuation route is safe and that all bridges are still available. Avoid routes with numerous bridges, valleys, tunnels, or bottlenecks.
  • Wear a hat, a fitted breathing apparatus and goggles, if possible; otherwise keep a damp cloth over your mouth and nose. People can die from breathing toxic fumes.
  • Go to high ground and keep moving away from the zombie outbreak. Stay away from low lying areas  where zombies may accumulate. Being aware of topography may save your life.
  • Get as far from the zombie outbreak as possible. Do not stop in less than 20 miles from the zombie outbreak. Be aware that some danger from fumes and biohazard waste still exists up to 100 miles away.
  • Don’t return to your home or repository until an “all clear” is announced and authorities indicate it is safe.

Post-Outrbreak Clean-up Actions to Salvage Your Repository: After you are cleared to enter the area again:

  • Wear goggles, a scarf or hat, and an appropriately rated breathing apparatus fitted to the wearer, as well as a long-sleeved smock, gloves, and slacks during recovery work. Wear goggles over glasses to prevent scratching of lens surfaces.
  • Staff members with breathing problems or asthma should avoid post-outbreak salvage work. Consult with your doctor if you are unsure whether you should be involved.
  • Avoid touching your hair, face, mouth or eyes once you begin working.
  • Don’t go into your repository until it has been judged safe by a national guardsmen.
  • Clear roofs, gutters, and drains of biohazard waste speedily as it can become heavy enough to collapse buildings.
  • Be aware that humans, animals, snakes, and insects may have used your repository as a safe haven during the outbreak. Be cautious about where you place your hands and feet.
  • Don’t turn on the repository’s air handling system until the outdoor air has cleared of biohazard waste and fumes and biohazard waste has been removed from the building gutters.
  • Keep doors and windows closed.
  • When you first enter the building, place mats outside the building to avoid tracking biohazard waste inside.
  • When you first enter the building, place plastic sheeting on the floors near any entry points and windows to capture biohazard waste.
  • As biohazard waste is extremely unpredictable, avoid touching it or rubbing it as it will act like an acidic sandpaper on collections and furnishings.
  • Vacuum all spaces from the top down ,emptying vacuum bags of biohazard waste outside the building far from air intake areas.
  • Wash nothing, as biohazard waste and water can produce acids or may harden into a cement-like covering when mixed with water.
  • Avoid rubbing, wiping, brushing, or washing storage furniture, walls, or collection item surfaces, instead vacuum working from the top of the room on down.
  • Take care to stir up the biohazard waste as little as possible when moving through a space to clean or work.
  • Change building and vacuum air filters very frequently, placing the trash outside far from air intake valves.
  • Keep the indoor environment very dry, preferably via passive methods.

Post Zombie Outbreak Activities to Salvage Your Collections:

  • Start recovery actions with your most valuable and sensitive collections items.
  • Obtain assistance from a trained conservator.
  • Contaminated collections items should be moved in a carefully supported fashion and cleaned in a non-biohazard waste contaminated work area.
  • Clean items via a handheld HEPE vacuum which has variable suction, microbrush attachments, a plastic mesh screen taped over the suction head, and a rheostat attachment to restrict the flow of electricity to the vacuum.
  • Test an item before vacuuming, by placing the vacuum directly over a small spot to see if any surface flaking, loose parts, or other problems occur. If problems occur, stop immediately and have the item cleaned by a conservator.
  • Avoid attempting to clean ripped, cracked, broken, or damaged items or any items with friable or loose surfaces. In general, have paintings, charcoals, conte crayon drawings, crayon drawings, flaking photographs, and similar friable and fragile items cleaned by a conservator.
  • When vacuuming, avoid touching, rubbing, or moving the vacuum over the surface of the item being cleaned. Instead hold the vacuum steadily slightly above the item’s surface to facilitate the biohazard waste being sucked up.
  • Clean the vacuum often outside of the building away from the air intake valves.
  • Return the cleaned items to their original storage only after the storage area has been thoroughly cleaned.
  • Questions should be addressed to your conservator. Contract conservators can be located via the American Institute for Conservation (AIC) at http://www.conservation-us.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=Page.viewPage&pageId=916&parentID=472.

7 Responses to “Emergency Response: Zombies and Risks to Repositories”

  1. Anonymous

    >I must respectfully disagree with the advice to invest in a wide range of guns and ammunition. Basically, you would be better off with 1 or 2 weapons. I would suggest a 12 gauge and/or a 20 gauge shotgun — the Remington 870 comes to mind — with a sufficient number of rounds. A battle rifle — something in .30-.30 would be good. For economically minded the Russian Mosin-Nagant 91/30 in the sniper configuration might be useful — although the limited availability of non-corrosive 7x54r ammunition is an issue.Remember — Don't be afraid of the guy with 25 guns. He's a collector. Be terrified of the guy with 1 — because he probably knows how to use it.

    Reply
  2. Tim

    >You raise a good point, but one must consider that some repositories and libraries have large amount of staff and volunteers. Moreover, if your institution is open to the public there may be many patrons in need of protection.

    Reply
  3. Inquiring Mind

    >This is quite comprehensive. Thanks for sharing – I'll be sure to get this added to my organization's emergency procedures manual. One gap, it seems to me, is how should an infected staff member be managed. I would think you'd want to have established HR severance procedures in place prior to an outbreak so that functioning staff can stay focused on preservation issues rather than personnel matters.

    Reply
  4. Anonymous

    >My library staff is instructed to use the industrial strength stapler against zoombies. It is worthless as a stapler but perfect for an assualt against zoombies.

    Reply

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