Memorial Hall Library

MHL as a Personal Care Site - Warming/Cooling/Charging Center

Town of Andover, MA Personal Care Sites (Warming/Cooling/Charging Center)

The Massachusetts Statewide Mass Care and Shelter Coordination Plan Toolkit describes four types of mass care and shelter operations. The four shelter types are:

  • Personal Care Site
  • Local-Initiated Overnight Shelters
  • Local-Initiated Regional Shelters
  • State-Initiated Regional Shelters

The Plan defines a Personal Care Site as a type of shelter facility that will provide temporary comfort services for shelter residents who are staying in their homes but may need assistance during emergencies for minor needs (for example, clean water, electricity, food/snacks, warming or cooling).

This document describes how Memorial Hall Library will function as the first type of care location, a Personal Care Site. Please note that there is no one term that is exclusively used for this kind of site – you will see it referred to as a Comfort Center, Warming Center, a Cooling Center, a Disaster Response Center, a Charging Station, among others. For the purposes of this document, Memorial Hall Library will be referred to as a Warming/Cooling/Charging Center when it is used to provide refuge and services to local people during a weather or other local emergency.

Procedure to Designate the Library as a Warming/Cooling/Charging Center

  • Town Manager and the Emergency Management Working Group (EMWG) director become aware of the incident, emergency, or disaster
  • Town Manager and the EMWG director assess the need for level of sheltering.
  • Town Manager, in consultation with the EMWG director and the Library Director, make the decision to designate the Library as a Warming/Cooling/Charging Center
  • The Town Manager, the EMWG director, and the Library Director decide next steps, roles, and responsibilities in opening the Library as a Warming/Cooling/Charging Center, for example:
    • Hours of operation
    • Acquiring necessary supplies if they are not on hand
    • Make every attempt to notify:
      • All EMWG members
      • Library staff
      • Town staff
      • School staff
      • Library Board of Trustees
      • Public
      • Code Red
      • Andover TV
      • MHL-Mail and other town email lists
      • MHL and other town social networking sites
      • MHL and other town web pages
      • Voicemail systems
      • Local media – newspapers, Andover Patch, radio
    • Ask other EMWG partners for help, as needed
    • Coordinate with other  local partners:
      • Banks for parking
      • Local gyms for showering
      • Local churches
      • Senior Center
      • Youth Center

What services should a Warming/Cooling/Charging Center supply?

In an emergency or disaster, there is often a need for a local place where affected people can go to reclaim a bit of their routine lives. Their homes may still be livable, but they may be without power, without water, without phone service, without heat, etc. People may not need a formal shelter, but they do need a place to weather the emergency aftermath. The number of individuals using a Warming/Cooling/Charging Center and the information gathered from these individuals can help local decision makers determine whether a local overnight shelter(s) is needed.

Memorial Hall Library has proved to be a valuable Warming/Cooling/Charging Center in the past, because it offers the below services and support:

  • ADA compliance
  • Relatively stable power
  • Central location with parking available
  • Public awareness of location
  • Knowledgeable, helpful, customer-service oriented staff, familiar with the community
  • Wireless Internet access for citizens' devices
  • Public fax, photocopiers, scanner, and printers
  • Library telephones could be used by patrons, as needed
  • Tables and seating for approximately 250+ people (more if chairs in Memorial Hall are used)
  • Water, bathrooms, heat and cooling, as long as power is not lost
  • Many electrical outlets for people to charge their devices so they can stay connected to families and jobs
  • Public networked computers with access to email, the Internet, productivity software, etc.
  • Books, magazines, newspapers, DVDs etc. to keep people occupied
  • Cable television to keep people informed and entertained, in Memorial Hall, the Activity Room, and the Teen Room
  • Gathering places for information sharing and visiting
  • Reference staff who can research what services are available locally and serve as an information portal, with input from and to the EMWG.
  • Children's Room which can offer Children's programs and a place for children and parents to gather, read, and play
  • A Teen Room to serve as a place for Teens to safely gather and have access to materials, computers,  and programs
  • Proximity to the Public Safety Center and businesses downtown
  • Refrigeration for medications, if deemed necessary
  • Meeting Room space for citizen groups, town agencies, aid town staff, etc.
  • A detailed print and online Disaster Plan
  • Participation in the Town's Emergency Management Planning Group

What is MHL currently lacking as a Warming/Cooling/Charging Center and what organizations might fill that gap?

  • Showers – possibly churches, schools and gyms could open their facilities to residents
  • Food – we can supply coffee, juice, cookies, etc. but would need outside support to obtain and serve meals
  • Baby formula and other necessities for babies
  • Medical help – if necessary, the Health Department could help with medication dispersal, basic first aid, etc.
  • Transportation – residents without cars who aren't on a bus line and who want to visit the Personal Care Site would need help in getting to the Library

What are the most important things the Library needs to function as a Warming/Cooling/Charging Center that it may need help to acquire?

  • Power – if the Library loses power, the Town Manager and the Emergency Management Working Group (EMWG) should work with National Grid to restore power to the library as quickly as possible.  Hopefully, the Library would be near the top of the list for power restoration efforts
  • Staff – all efforts must be made to get Library or other Town staff to the Library to support citizens within the building, by phone, and electronically
  • Food/snacks and water for citizens of all ages

What role might other organizations play in helping the Library serve residents in an emergency?

  • YMCA, gyms with power, etc. could allow residents without power to shower on their premises
  • Nearby  banks might allow people to park in their lots during emergencies
  • EMWG might supply the Library with essentials like bottled water for distribution
  • Town staff and the MA Medical Reserve Corps could help with distribution of supplies

What decisions might we make in advance to make the library more effective as a Warming/Cooling/Charging Center?

  • Not charge for parking
  • Stockpile power strips, games for kids, tissues, toiletries, etc.
  • Secure permission of banks to use their parking lots
  • If roads are a problem, consider ways to get staff to get to the Library
  • Plan for custodians in closed buildings to be temporarily assigned to the Library
  • Offer  to refrigerate medications
  • Water distribution/Ice distribution (into residents own containers)
  • Write sample notices that can be edited for PR distribution

What should we consider doing in the future to make the Library more reliable as a Warming/Cooling/Charging Center?

  • Generator upgrade or mobile generator capability - NOTE:  Whole building generator is budgeted for FY19

What did we learn in the Halloween Storm of 2011, the Ice Storm of 2008, and subsequent severe weather events?

  • People came to the library because they knew it had power, water, space, and wireless Internet access to  stay connected and charge their devices
  • People will sit on the floor to be near an outlet
  • People are very well-behaved in an emergency – quiet, sharing, cooperative, appreciative
  • People stay until about 7pm, and then go home. We may want to stay open until 7pm on Friday, Sat, and Sun during an emergency.  We are already staffed Monday-Thursday, 9am-9pm
  • Staff likes to feel that they are helping people and are very accommodating
  • Being helpful in such a direct way during an emergency is excellent PR for both the Library and the Town

Beth Mazin, Library Director, amended 5/10/18