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Emergency Preparedness and Response

Sample Emergency Plan: Stabilization and Salvage of Wet Motion Picture Films

Stabilization and Salvage of Wet Motion Picture Films

Color image of a 16 millimeter motion picture film wound on a metal reel.

  1. When given OK by building engineers, assess the extent of the problem.
  2. Drape adjacent shelving with plastic sheeting.
  3. If necessary, secure carts and book trucks to move films out of disaster area. Trucks with dry films can be temporarily stored in stack aisles until a decision is made to move them back.
  4. Motion picture film cans are heavy. Library or recovery service staff should not attempt to lift stacks of film cans. Lift one at a time.
  5. Wipe dry, open and check all wet film cans to determine extent of wetness.
  6. If film is completely dry, follow recovery supervisor's handling instructions and carefully transfer the film to a dry container. It may also be possible to thoroughly dry the original container and put film back inside. Accurately copy all information (including call number, bar code number, title, date of production, run time, etc.) from an old can onto a new one.
  7. If film is wet:
    • Wet motion picture film must be professionally re-washed and dry-processed within 72 hours.
    • Do not remove wet films from cans or attempt to unwind and wipe wet film dry.
    • Move film to a processing area. Keeping films submerged in water means that the container will be very heavy when full. Place wet film in a plastic garbage bag opened inside a wheeled plastic garbage can. Do not stack more than five cans in a bag. Add cool clean water to completely cover the stack of five films cans and fold the bag closed.
    • Do not put more than three sets of five cans (fifteen cans in three separate plastic garbage bags) in the garbage can and be sure to cover each stack with water before closing the bag. Keeping stacks of five cans in separate bags will make it easier to lift the cans out for processing.
  8. Films must be kept wet and cool at all times prior to pickup and throughout shipment to the film lab.
  9. Contact a reputable film processing lab that has professional film re-washing and drying capability. The lab will need to know the number of films and the manner in which they have been packed. Depending on the quantity of films and available staff it may be necessary to distribute the films to more than one lab.
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