International Fires Cause Damage to Records

Two fires have been reported at institutions housing records this past weekend, one at the Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences in Moscow and the other at CitiStorage’s Record Center in Brooklyn.

On Friday, January 30, 2015, a fire broke out at the Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences in Moscow. Firefighters were unable to contain the blaze until Saturday evening. Although no one was injured, it is estimated that 15 per cent of the collection has been damaged by the fire and fire suppression methods. The cause of the fire is believed to be an electrical short-circuit.[1] The Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences was established in 1918 and houses an extensive collection of books and documents related to the social sciences. It contains the largest collection of Slavic language books in Russia and holds records from UNESCO and the League of Nations, among other organizations.[2]

Video of the fire at the Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences in Moscow (0:29 min).

In the early morning of Saturday, January 31, 2015, a fire started at the CitiStorage Records Center in Brooklyn. Firefighters were called and the blaze was extinguished, however, firefighters were called back to the site an hour later as another fire had engulfed the warehouse. The facility had both fire detection and suppression systems and, although the sprinkler system was activated during the first fire, the sprinkler system was inactive during the second fire. The cause of the fires is currently unknown. CitiStorage is claiming that the building and their holdings at this location are unsalvageable.[3]

CitiStorage is an organization offering records management and storage facilities in New York and New Jersey. Many institutions utilized their services, such as the New York court system, the city Health and Hospital Corporation, and the city Administration for Children’s Services, among others.[4] Privacy issues are a concern as the debris contains confidential and sensitive information. Scorched records are not only at the site of the fire but scattered along the riverbank.

fireboat

Fireboat extinguishing fire in Brooklyn with records in the water. Photo credit: Vladimir Badikov.

In many cases disasters such as these cannot be prevented, but we can prepare our facilities with equipment and supplies to deter or contain these incidents and train our staff on best practices for evacuation, salvage and recovery. Consult with your local fire department to design or examine your fire detection and suppression systems. Check that your fire detection and suppression systems are activated and functioning properly. Check electrical wiring and other potential fire hazards often. Prepare and practice fire drills. Provide staff training on the proper use of fire extinguishers. Consider purchasing emergency supplies specifically for fires (this may include fireproof storage cabinets or boxes, fire blankets and polyethylene sheeting to protect records from water damage from sprinklers).

Please take the time to implement or re-examine your institution’s fire preparedness and recovery strategies.

[1] AFP, ‘Fire in major Russian library destroys 1m historic documents,’ The Guardian, January 31, 2015, accessed February 2, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/31/fire-russian-library-moscow-institute

[2] Jon Stone, ‘Huge library containing historic texts and 14 million books goes up in flames Moscow,’ The Independent, January 31, 2015, accessed February 2, 2015, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/huge-library-containing-historic-texts-and-14-million-books-goes-up-in-flames-moscow-10015455.html

[3] “Company statement regarding fire at Recall CitiStorage Facility,” CitiStorage, accessed February 2, 2015, http://www.citistorage.com/

[4] Benjamin Mueller and Nate Schweber, ‘Papers fuel a 7-alarm fire at a warehouse in Brooklyn,’ City Room, January 31, 2015, accessed February 2, 2015, http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/01/31/five-alarm-blaze-at-brooklyn-warehouse/?smid=tw-share&_r=0The Lead Team Logo

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