Okaloosa County Public Library Cooperative as Disaster Response Center
Unfortunately, many people don’t plan for natural disasters. When faced with one, they may not know where to go or what to do.
For example, a lot of people no longer keep a landline telephone, and during extended power outages, residents who rely upon cell phones desperately need electricity. Their local libraries may be the only places to get it.
Vicky Stever, Coordinator for the Okaloosa County Public Library Cooperative (OCPLC), says, “One of the things we want to do is increase public awareness of how libraries can support recovery efforts.”
OCPLC’s disaster response plan includes several components:
Quick-Charging Stations Installed at all Member Libraries
- When the library’s electricity remains intact during a disaster, charging stations will enable residents to keep electronic devices active.
- With active devices, residents can stay informed, communicate with others and relax with e-books, games, etc.
- If one particular area of the county is impacted, additional stations can be moved to that area’s library or to a shelter.
- Charging stations are also handy during normal operations.
- Stations include library-branded graphics, making them useful marketing tools.
Partnership With the County’s Public Safety Office
- Public Safety receives grants to purchase disaster education materials.
- Libraries distribute materials, such as:
- Checklists for families to make emergency plans.
- Coloring/activity books to ease children’s fears by helping them understand and prepare for natural disasters.
Aiding Okaloosa County’s Participation in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) National Flood Insurance Program Community Rating System(NFIP CRS)
- A voluntary incentive program, NFIP CRS helps counties achieve lowered flood insurance premiums for their residents.
- OCPLC helped increase the county’s public information score by adding FEMA public awareness materials to its libraries and online catalog.
- At local town hall meetings to explain FEMA support and flood insurance programs, presenters included OCPLC’s libraries as local resources.
OCPLC hasn’t had to call on its disaster response program so far, but the cooperative continues to grow as a disaster response center so it will be ready when needed. In the coming year, OCPLC hopes to expand its outreach by speaking about disaster response to community groups.