Library Fire Case Study
Shortly after 11:00am on Wednesday, July 26, 2017, a small fire was reported inside the Mary Livermore Library on the University of North Carolina-Pembroke’s campus. The fire was contained to an unoccupied study room on the second floor of the library and was quickly extinguished by the building’s sprinkler system. While the fire damage was minimal, smoke and soot penetrated the library and the sprinklers caused substantial water damage to the first floor where the library’s special collections and two large sections of library books are housed.
A local carpet cleaning company was first on-site in attempt to extract the water. It quickly became apparent that with the amount of moisture and the extent of drying required, a professional restoration company would be needed to mitigate the damage. PHC walked through the affected area with University officials, evaluated the damage, formulated a drying process, and submitted the required estimate and purchase order to begin work on the project.
Open communication, complete disclosure, and working with limited disruption to library hours and staff was established from the beginning of the project. Our project manager briefed the Dean of Library Services at least twice daily with the day’s work schedule and a time line progress report. Our water restoration tech checked the moisture level in various locations of the library every day and would log these levels in a mitigation binder. This binder was kept on-site and allowed University officials, their adjuster and maintenance staff to check the drying progress themselves. Our contents team worked to clean the fire damaged areas while the mitigation team worked on moving books, setting up drying equipment and mitigating the water damage without disrupting the library staff whose daily operations resumed two days after the fire occurred. We also worked on Saturdays and after the library closed performing functions that would disrupt library activity.
Following the fire and its extinguishing, books in the Special Collections room sustained water damage and were exposed to high humidity. Since high humidity can lead to the growth of mold or mildew in books, we knew time was of the essence to prevent this growth. We moved over 1000 books into a special chamber we set up on the lower level of the library. In this chamber, we were able to control the humidity levels and dry the books while the remediation took place around it throughout the library. In a week’s time, we were able to remove the humidity from the books, dry and clean the affected areas and assist in returning the books to the assigned areas.