No, I'm not kidding. I'm sure some of you must have seen "Day after Tomorrow." The New York Public Library, as you will recall, served as a shelter for some of the survivors of the devastation of global warming that involved bizarre weather changes, freezing temperatures - and I do mean freezing - and the flooding of Manhattan. Communities have made use of public libraries as a place to shelter community members during a storm or immediately after a disaster.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency and Homeland Security have in the last few years been working with public libraries to assist them in being able to provide this service to the community and to serve as a source of information to the community immediately before, during and after a disaster. The dissemination of this type of information is a traditional role for the public library, one that it has always played in most communities.
Those involved with the Scarborough Preparedness Project in Maine believe that the public library can have a much larger role. I have had the opportunity to work with the public library director, Nancy Crowell, and her staff in Scarborough over the past few months as we have put together an on-line public education program that is geared to the general public and attempts to integrate the skills and the attitudes of resilience with the traditional information that FEMA and Homeland Security provide to the general public, e.g., preparation of Readiness Kits, creation of evacuation plans, etc. The library will provide this information on line over their website beginning in the fall of this year.
Those using the website will be able to link to other websites for additional information and will have an opportunity on the library's website to apply what they know by participating in a Category IV hurricane simulation on the website, complete with TV newscasts describing the storm that is approaching the coast and the devastation that it has produced.
Participants will be asked to apply the skills of resilience in answering questions for themselves about how they would plan for the approaching storm and how they would deal with its aftermath. Two things about this program that make it unique are: (1) It attempts to integrate the skills and the attitudes of resilience with the traditional information that FEMA provides to the public regarding preparedness and survival. (2) It focuses on the general public, not first responders or the business community. Anyone can benefit from participation in the program.