In the wake of recent world events, institutions have learned that preparation is required to be able to respond in the case of a disaster – whether natural or manmade. This process is known as “emergency preparedness” or “disaster planning”. While the word “disaster” may imply a major event, such as floods, fires, or earthquakes, most collection disasters are much smaller in scale such as flooding from a burst pipe.
This broad topic covers a wide range of planning activities that are easy to put off, leading to ruinous results. In the event that a disaster, large or small, cannot be prevented, individuals and institutions must be prepared to respond appropriately to assure safety of personnel and collections, and then salvage whatever can be saved. In 2005, Heritage Preservation published A Public Trust at Risk: The Heritage Health Index Report on the State of America’s Collections, indicating that nearly 80% of Museums in America do not have an emergency management or disaster recovery plan. Good emergency preparedness can mitigate certain hazards and ensure that other emergencies do not turn into full-scale disasters. For this to happen effectively, a plan must already be in place—during a disaster is no time to plan.
This portion of the website will provide some basic information in these broad areas:
Additional Resources for Emergency Preparedness and Response
- Museum SOS is an AMNH website with extensive information on disaster response and salvage.
- The American Institute for Conservation has information on Disaster Response and Recovery. Additionally, they have a program, AIC-CERT – The AIC-Collections Emergency Response Team, which responds to the needs of cultural institutions during emergencies and disasters through coordinated efforts with first responders, state agencies, vendors and the public. For 24-hour assistance, call (202) 661-8068
- The Central New York Library Resources Council (CLRC) website has useful information including a pdf titled In the Face of Disaster which addresses collection priorities, building audits to eliminate potential disasters, insurance, response plans, and salvage priorities and techniques.
- The Minnesota Historical Society has a list of Disaster Response and Recovery Resources with specific recovery procedures and links to other resources.
- FEMA offers Integrating Historic Property & Cultural Resource Considerations into Hazard Mitigation Planning, a how-to guide with tools & resources to develop & implement strategies for historic properties & cultural resources.
- The Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) and the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners share dPlan, a free online program to help institutions write comprehensive disaster plans. Templates for museums of all sizes to develop a customized plan with checklists; salvage priorities; preventive maintenance schedules; contact information for personnel, insurance, and IT help; and a list of emergency supplies and services are included. They also maintain a list of Emergency Management Suppliers & Services that will help in the event of a disaster.
- NEDCC also offers the following technical leaflets to assist in developing a disaster plan.
- Disaster Planning is an overview of issues to consider when developing a plan: decreasing risks, identifying resources, and setting priorities. It includes a bibliography and a list of basic supplies and equipment to have on hand.
- Emergency Management Bibliography is an annotated bibliography of publications on planning, preparedness, and recovery.
- Worksheet for Outlining a Disaster Plan is for identifying equipment and services needed for disaster preparedness and recovery, setting salvage priorities, and scheduling drills.
- Introduction to fire detection, alarm, and automatic fire sprinklers
- Protection from Loss: Water and Fire Damage, Biological Agents, Theft, and Vandalism
- The National Archives & Records Administration’ fire safety self-inspection form can be used by museums to identify areas of fire risk
- The Nonprofit Risk Management Center’s website has a page with information useful (including checklists and a sample plan) in developing an emergency evacuation strategy.
- The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) provides 2 useful fact sheets. One on fire prevention plans, and the second on emergency exit routes
- The Conservation Online website (CoOL) has an article by Michael Trinkley on Protecting Your Institution From Wild Fires: Planning Not to Burn and Learning to Recover that offers tips on preventive measures and recovery
- Heritage Preservation. 2005. “A Public Trust at Risk: The Heritage Health Index Report on the State of America’s Collections (HHI).”