Disaster Planning Training

Version 2.1 Disaster Planning Training: Outline

Contributors: Lance Stuchell, Rita Bantom, Nancy McGovern

Last updated: January 2014 for DPM workshops


This document provides an outline for constructing a Disaster Plan Training program at ICPSR and offers a step towards identifying core components. The outline was developed to produce a plan that:

  • Identifies procedures appropriate for an institution /subunit within parent organization
  • Supplements overall disaster planning of an institution /subunit within parent organization
  • Informs all employees of the existence of a Disaster Plan that provides procedures to follow in the event of an emergency
  • Guides the training all personnel with responsibilities identified in the plan to perform the disaster recovery/business resumption procedures
  • Provides the opportunity for recovery teams to practice disaster recovery/business resumption skills.

This model was especially guided by and adapts language from: Washington State Department of Information Services: Disaster Recovery and Business Resumption Planning Policy; dPlan.org; and “Disaster Plan Exercise” by the California Preservation Program.

Lance Stuchell, Intern, Digital Preservation team, ICPSR prepared Version 1.0 of this outline in August, 2008.  Version 2.0 reflects revisions made after developing the ICPSR Disaster Planning Training Plan in March 2009. Last revised by the DPM workshops in January 2014.

Training Program Components

Purpose: defines the central role a disaster planning training plan plays in organizational wide disaster planning within the overall mission of the organization.  Links: organizational documents that refer to disaster planning requirements (e.g., digital preservation policies, disaster planning policies, mission statements, operational plans)

Scope: establishes the levels of responsibility, boundaries of the disaster planning training plan.  The plan should encompass the training needs of the Disaster Planning Team, Disaster Response Team, and all general staff, both new hires and current employees. Links: Overall training plan for the organization (and parent organization, if relevant), organizational training procedures that are reflected in the plan.

Roles and Responsibilities:  describes key participants and their respective roles in disaster planning training.  It describes broad categories of roles and responsibilities and cites documents containing more specific descriptions.  Links: role definitions for disaster planning with explicit responsibilities, documentation of current role assignments.

Training Plan: addresses the components and levels of training that will be made available (or required for) based on the roles and responsibilities defined. This section should include training methods, training content, training responsibilities of supervisors, and training activities, as appropriate.  Links: disaster planning roles and responsibilities documentation, organizational training documents

Disaster Planning Team Training: outlines how to create a knowledgeable and informed planning team.

Training Methods: identifies training methods and objectives, including

  • Educating themselves through the use of books and articles on disaster planning, and monitor online resources such as listservs and web sites relating to disaster planning
  • Be provided with more formal training methods such as disaster planning workshops or in-house training sessions (e.g., seminar, group discussion, case study exercises).

Supervisory role: names the staff member in charge of training the Disaster Planning Team, usually the team leader.

Disaster Response Team Training: governs the training of the potential members if a disaster response team that will be responsible for declaring a disaster then implementing and supervising a response or recovery effort.

Training Methods: identifies training methods and objectives. It is crucial for all members to receive (preferably hands-on) training in first response measures and procedures for recognizing and dealing with any disaster site hazards. The fundamental goals of training should be to familiarize the team with all elements of the Disaster Plan and to give them experience working together as a team. This training may consist of:

  • Formal disaster response/recovery workshops
  • First aid and/or CPR training
  • In-house training (e.g., hands-on sessions focused on specific topics, “tabletop” disaster exercises, or mock disasters)
  • Individual use of books and articles on disaster response, salvage, recovery, and rehabilitation
  • Individual use of online resources (such as listservs and web sites) to stay current with new developments in disaster response, salvage, and recovery methods for collections

Training Content: describes the nature of training materials required. Regardless of the format in which the training is delivered, some combination of the following topics should be covered:

  • Team-building
  • Handling wet and damaged collections
  • Recovery procedures and the use of equipment
  • Workplace health and safety (relating to emergency response)
  • Proper use of protective clothing and equipment
  • Hazards of exposure to mold
  • Crisis counseling

Supervisory role: names the staff member in charge of training the Disaster Response Team, usually the team leader, or a member of the team designated as the training coordinator.

Staff Training: specifies the types of training and awareness required for all staff. The role of staff in the successful application of the emergency procedures and disaster preparedness guidance cannot be overstated. Staff members are often the first line of defense against disasters, observing problems as they occur. They must be able to recognize that there is a problem, know how to respond, and know whom to call. This section may require a combination of the following training activities, and should include the frequently in which they are done and who is responsible:

Training Activities:

  • Review basic preventive measures during all-staff meeting (e.g., protection from water/fire, security procedures), suggested frequency: Semi-annually
  • Review specific evacuation routes and general emergency procedures during all-staff meeting. suggested frequency: Semi-annually
  • Review procedures for operation of the security system with appropriate staff. suggested frequency: Semi-annually
  • Review procedures for operation of the climate control system with appropriate staff. suggested frequency: Semi-annually
  • Review procedures for operation of the fire detection system with appropriate staff, suggested frequency: Semi-annually
  • Review proper procedures for operation of the fire suppression system with appropriate staff, suggested frequency: Semi-annually
  • Review how to operate a fire extinguisher with all staff, suggested frequency: Semi-annually
  • Hold staff meeting to review proper implementation of the disaster plan (e.g., how to recognize a potential threat, what to do, how to report a problem, how and when to activate the plan), suggested frequency: Semi-annually

Exercises: suggests exercises and simulations that will be included in the training program. These exercises may also provide a method for the overall evaluation of the disaster planning program:

  • Conduct “tabletop” disaster exercise (disaster planning staff, minimal disruption to daily business routine)
  • Conduct small-scale disaster simulation (includes more staff, moderate interruption to daily business routine)
  • Conduct large-scale disaster simulation (involves a large proportion of staff and may require the suspension of normal daily business routine, but may also lead to important changes in Disaster Plan and training program

Supervisory role: names the staff member in charge of general staff training, usually the Disaster Team or Planning Team leader or training coordinator

Maintenance and Evaluation: explicitly commits the organization to ensuring that the training program is effective and current. It should be tested and evaluated annually, or as otherwise mandated by the Disaster Planning Policy Framework.  The content should be updated as roles, responsibilities, and requirements evolve.  This portion of the document should indicate the intended and actual update cycle for the document.   Links: disaster planning policy framework, disaster planning and response training schedules, schedules for maintaining disaster planning documents.

References: provides citations for or pointers to key resources that were informed the development and application of the training plan within the disaster planning program. It may contain citations for these documents or point to a current list of relevant community standards and guidance.  Links: cited resources, community lists of standards and practice.

References used in developing this model:

California Preservation Program . “Disaster Plan Exercise.”  2005.

McGovern, Nancy. “Version 2.0 Digital Preservation Policy Framework: Outline.” ICPSR, October 2007.

National Institute of Standards and Technology. Contingency Planning Guide for Information Technology Systems: Recommendations of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. NIST Special Publication 800-34. June 2002.

Northeast Document Conservation Center and Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, dPlan.org, 2006.

Washington State Department of Information Services. “Disaster Recovery and Business Resumption Planning Policy.” April 2002.