Washington, D.C. â€“ The American Library Association (ALA) says efforts by Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) have resulted in a change to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) policy that will designate libraries as temporary relocation facilities during major disasters and emergencies under the FEMA Public Assistance Program.
Section 403 of the Stafford Act authorizes FEMA to provide federal assistance to meet immediate threats to life and property resulting from a major disaster. According to the provision, the act allows for the provision of temporary facilities for schools and other essential community services, when it is related to saving lives and protecting and preserving property or public health and safety.
â€œIn times of disaster, libraries strive to ensure the public has access to the resources and services they need, but prior to this policy change libraries were not specifically included in the list of eligible public facilities,â€ Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the ALA Washington Office, said.
â€œSenator Reed recognized what a tremendous oversight this was and has worked with us to make sure the correction was made. We thank him for his diligence to ensure the public will continue to find the critical resources they need in times of an emergency at their local library.â€
FEMAâ€™s list of eligible public facilities now includes facilities for police, fire protection/emergency services, medical care, education, libraries, utilities and other essential community services.
â€œThis is a common-sense change that I have been calling for since Hurricane Katrina,â€ Reed said.
â€œIt will help libraries in need relocate so they can keep serving the public in the wake of a flood or other emergency. Libraries are vital information hubs, and in the aftermath of a disaster, libraries take on an even greater community role, providing free and easy access to technology and essential information.â€
Reed also authored the Museum and Library Services Act of 2010, which President Obama recently signed into law, authorizing nearly $300 million in federal assistance to museums and libraries nationwide.
Contact: Jenni Terry
ALA Washington Office