Damage after a fire can be devastating, and beginning the recovery process can be daunting, especially in the case of community hub like a library. What many people overlook in these first stages, is how to protect contents like books or documents that weren’t actually damaged during the disaster. Believe it or not, if done incorrectly, the restoration period can be as dangerous to these valuable contents as the disaster!
Fires don’t always damage 100% of the contents of a building, and in libraries, undamaged books will need to be removed from the disaster site so that restoration crews have access to the damaged structure while cleaning and making repairs. Moving books and documents also prevents additional damage like mold and contamination from affecting otherwise undamaged items.
Burning, smoke, and soot are not the only damage done to contents like books after a fire. Generally, fires are put out by chemical fire suppression materials or by water. In the case of chemical fire suppression, books may have a film or residue that will need to be removed with a document restoration process. When water is used to douse the fire, the structure and contents can be left wet and and the area can experience elevated humidity. If a library building has a high humidity level, mold can grow, even on books that weren’t otherwise damaged.
During the restoration period, it’s critical to ensure protection of library contents like books — both damaged and undamaged:
- To restore damaged books, we recommend hiring an experienced document restoration company with capabilities like vacuum freeze drying, cleaning, and deodorizing.
- To protect books that are undamaged and will be returned to the restored library, we recommend hiring a vendor with experience in working with archived materials like libraries or documents. This way, contents can be inventoried, stored appropriately, and reshelved correctly when restoration of the structure is complete.
On a recent job, DFD moved 800 cubic feet of undamaged books from a library that had been burned in a fire.The building’s beams had been melted and areas of the structure were caving in. DFD technicians had to use safety protocols while accessing the books, and remediating the fire damage to documents in the library.
At this job, 400 specialty totes were used to move books and documents, both damaged and undamaged. The books had to be rescued from the second story of the building, and supplementary lighting had to be supplied, as the building’s power had been shut off for safety reasons.
These specific processes meant that moving large quantities of books, records, and other valuable documents was fast, safe and efficient. Damaged books were removed, inventoried, and shipped for restoration, while undamaged items were carefully inventoried, packed and moved out of the facility to preserve them.
PRO TIP: When the contents matter, the contractor matters. Choose a company with experience in handling documents, books, and other archival materials. A company that offers inventory and reshelving services will help ensure that no item in a library is lost, whether directly or indirectly affected by a disaster.