In-house storage of electronic media collections does include certain risks. While catastrophe is far less likely to cause damage than natural deterioration, if disaster does strike–whether in the form of burst pipes or plaster dust from construction–it can render an archive unusable. Several safety measures can be taken to minimize potential damage from fire, flooding, earthquake, or construction.
The most valuable material in an archive should be duplicated and stored in a separate location, preferably off site. Duplicate storage reduces the chance of losing everything in one fell swoop. On site, valuable material should be stored as far from the floor and the ceiling as possible.
Mops, gloves, buckets, aprons, and plastic sheeting to cover shelves and divert falling water should be kept on hand in case of a flood. Tapes contaminated by water or fire-suppressant chemicals require immediate attention and should be treated by professionals while still wet–letting wet material dry on site can deform tape and leave corrosive residue. Wet tapes should be kept cool at all times to slow decay.
After an earthquake or construction work, tapes may be covered with dry debris like plaster dust and they should be isolated to prevent further contamination. Tapes should be kept dry at all times to prevent moisture from chemically activating corrosive elements in the dust. Use extreme caution when moving wet or dry material from a disaster area. Changing a tape’s orientation can cause further damage and also spread contaminants. If possible, tapes should be protected from shock and insulated against sudden changes in temperature during a move.
Time is a crucial factor in successful recovery after a disaster. Emergency phone numbers, including insurance contacts and a professional recovery service, should be clearly posted near on-site storage facilities. If disaster does strike, review inventory records to determine if alternate copies exist. Contact the insurance company to determine what costs are covered, establish a budget for any remaining costs, and allocate staff to oversee the recovery process. IMAP strongly recommends contacting preservation experts as soon as possible to assess damages.