Water Damage

Water Damage

Procedures for Recovering Print Materials and Air Drying Books 

1.    Books that are thoroughly wet:
  • Place absorbent paper on table or floor where books will be dried (unprinted newspaper works well). Change paper on the table/floor as it becomes wet.
  • Lay book at edge of table with foredge pointing off edge and gently, but firmly apply pressure from spine to foredge, pushing out excess water. Gently open book and insert paper towel every 20-25pp. Change when the paper towels are wet.
  • If cover is bleeding or coming off, remove and put aside to a place where it can be found again. In many cases, the book will need to be rebound.
  • Use fans to generate air circulation in room. Books should be dry enough for the next step: books that are partially wet.



Do not attempt to fan leaves. Do not remove covers unless they are bleeding. Leather and vellum bindings will present problems. When leather gets wet, especially red-rotted leather, it will turn black and take on a slimy consistency. These covers should be removed and put aside (inside to inside) with pieces of freezer paper between them to prevent transfer of discoloration. Likewise vellum bindings will need special attention because they will warp severely upon getting wet. Contact the Bird Library Preservation Department @ 443-4560/1947/9937 for help in recovery.

2.   Books that are partially wet
  • Open book partially (at a fairly shallow angle) and interleave with absorbent paper (paper towels work well).
  • Begin at the back of the book and interleave every 20 or so leaves (i.e., pages).
  • Leave book flat until paper towels have absorbed some of the water–i.e., in about one hour. Change paper towels periodically until book is only very slightly damp, and then go to the next step: books that are damp.
3.   Books that are damp
  • Stand damp books on edge, lightly fanned, and dry in front of fans. If the cover is damper than the text, place absorbent paper between the boards and the book, changing them as needed. When almost dry, go to the next step: books that are almost dry.
4.   Books that are almost dry
  • Lay the book flat, push the back and boards gently into position, and place under a light weight. Leave in this position until book is thoroughly dry.
  • When books are dry to the touch at the gutter, stack from largest to smallest and foredge to spine with a board on top and underneath. Place weights on board to help flatten.
The drying time for a book can range from 1 to 7 days.

Keep in mind that coated paper (shiny paper) is a special case. If this paper is allowed to dry with pages stuck to each other, it will NOT be possible to separate them. For this reason it is important that they be interleaved between every page with paper towel. Change as often as necessary and then follow steps from “Books that are almost dry.” Pages should be carefully separated. If uncertain, contact the Bird Library Preservation Department @ 443-4560/1947/9937 for help in recovery.

Procedures for Air Drying Paper Documents or Pamphlets

  • Hang documents/pamphlets over fish line or clothesline to dry. Lines may be strung close together and items laid across them to dry.
  • Lay out small stacks of documents and/or single leaves on tables, floors, and other flat surfaces. Spread paper towels or unprinted newspaper on tables, etc.
  • Use fans to circulate air in recovery location.
  • Change newsprint/paper towels as necessary, i.e. when towels become damp.

Do not attempt to separate leaves that are very wet or that are sticking together unless you have been trained to do so.
Do not attempt to air dry manuscripts, drawings, or material with water-soluble colors except under the advice of a conservation specialist.
NOTE: Make sure that contents of folders and boxes are not separated from each other.

Power Outage

If You Work in an Office or Similar Setting

If a power interruption occurs:

  1. Remain calm
  2. Turn off any unnecessary appliances, computers, office equipment, tools, etc.  Leave lights on as an indicator of the return of power.
  3. Provide assistance to individuals not familiar with the area.
  4. Remain indoors and in the vicinity of your normal work area.  Evacuate if told by authorities to do so.
  5. During an extended power outage, call Physical Plant at 443-1234 for a status report.

NOTE:  Many campus buildings are equipped with backup power (generator power), which will either completely or partially restore power to the buildings.


If You Work in an Area with Hazardous Chemicals or Other Hazards

If a power outage occurs and personnel are present in an area where hazardous chemicals are used or other hazards are present, (e.g., in a laboratory, paint shop, print shop, art studio, wood shop, etc.), and power is not restored immediately, the following actions should be considered:

  1. Turn off all non-essential electrical devices, particularly if they are to be left unattended before power is restored.  Keep in mind that if no one is in the area when the power is restored, equipment that does turn on will be running unattended.
  2. Discontinue activities requiring local ventilation such as paint spray booths, laboratory fume hoods and biological safety cabinets, and close the sashes to those devices.  No work is allowed in these devices until power has been fully restored and the user verifies normal operation of the device(s).
  3. Ensure that all chemical containers are capped to eliminate off-gassing in an unventilated area.
  4. Turn off compressed gas cylinders at the tank valves.  If an inert gas is being used to “blanket” a reactive compound or reactive process in a laboratory, it may be appropriate to leave the gas flow on.  (The decision to do this should be part of a written Standard Operating Procedure specific to each of an area’s hazardous materials processes.)
  5. Also turn off actively flowing natural gas being delivered to a work area, (e.g., to a laboratory bench top or work station).  (This does not include the main natural gas supply to a building.  If needed, Physical Plant will provide that service.)

NOTE:  If there is potential to breath in chemicals due to lack of exhaust ventilation during a power outage, personnel should remove themselves from the area and contact their supervisor for further direction.

NOTE:  Planning prior to an outage should include a well-defined list of procedures to be used by those working in hazardous-use areas.  It is important to remember that some campus buildings have no backup power (generators) and that buildings with backup power are usually only partially powered in an emergency.

Crime in Progress

In the event that you are the victim of or witness a crime in progress, immediately:
  1. Call the Department of Public Safety at 711 from a University phone or 443-2224 from any other phone and provide the dispatcher with:
    • Your name
    • Your location
    • Your phone number
    • Details of the situation
  1. Get away from the suspect; do not attempt to confront the suspect.
  1. When it is safe to do so, provide the Department of Public Safety with a clear description of the suspect/incident:
    • Height and weight
    • Gender
    • Hair color/length and presence of any facial hair
    • Race/complexion
    • Clothing description
    • Approximate age
    • Vehicle type, color, and plate (including state)
    • Direction of travel
  1. Follow all instructions of the responding Department of Public Safety officer or Syracuse Police officer.
  1. Notify your supervisor/department head.

Nuisance Wildlife

Wild animals, alive or dead, can spread disease and may pose potential physical hazards. Avoid all contact with wild animals.

Contact includes:

  • Bite, scratch, or kick from a wild animal
  • Exposure of eyes, nose, mouth and non-intact (cut, scratched, burned, etc.) skin to animal blood or animal saliva

At Syracuse University, only designated, trained individuals may handle and remove wild animals (alive or dead).

If there is nuisance wildlife in your work area:

  • Notify your supervisor and the Department of Public Safety immediately (711 from a University phone or 443-2224 from any other phone.
  • Do not attempt to remove or disturb the animal.
  • Depending on the incident, Physical Plant/Housing will respond and/or contact a pest management vendor.

If there has been potential contact with nuisance wildlife, notify your supervisor and the Department of Public Safety immediately.
Be prepared to tell Public Safety your name, phone number and location from which you are calling, and the nature of the incident (type of animal, animal behavior, injuries sustained).

For more information & non-emergency questions, contact the Environmental Health and Safety Services Office (443-4132).