Human-Made Disasters

While it’s difficult to imagine violence occurring in your museum, it’s better to be prepared for an incident and never need the information than to be left unprepared in the face of danger. This section provides information and resources to help you learn more about active shootings, bomb threats, and theft.

Active Shooter Situations

What would you do in an active shooter situation? Gun violence is a problem in America. Museums need to be aware of the danger and make preparations. Visit the Gun Violence Archive website for up-to-date information on gun violence in the United States.

The FBI and Homeland Security websites provide resources and strategies you may find helpful. The main message of these organizations is that if you find yourself faced with an active shooter you should be prepared to run, hide, and/or fight back.

If possible, run and flee the area to safety. If that is not possible, hide yourself and stay calm and quiet. But, if you are faced with an active shooter and cannot run or hide, fight back—be aggressive and commit to your actions to attempt to incapacitate the shooter.

Here is a video featuring a simulated active shooting in an office location and how to react (made in partnership between Ready Houston and Homeland Security).

This 2008 booklet from Homeland Security on how to react to active shooters is also a good resource.

If you are interested in training there are consulting groups that provide active shooter response training for museums and historic sites.

Bomb Threats

The Department of Homeland Security has lots of information about how to respond to bomb threats posted here.

Some of their tips include the following:

  • Remain calm.
  • Notify authorities immediately.
  • If you see a suspicious package, do not touch, tamper with, or move it.
  • If you receive a threatening phone call, keep them on the line as long as possible.
  • Write down as much information as you can.

For more information, look at the Department of Homeland Security Bomb Threat Checklist.


The Getty Conservation Institute published these Collections Theft Response Procedures in 2001. On the last page of this document they provide a list of primary steps to take in responding to collections theft.

Some important steps include:

  • If the theft is in progress, notify local law enforcement.
  • Safeguard against additional loss or damage to people or collections.
  • Document all activities and the timeline of the theft during the incident response in writing, photos, and video.
  • Enlist the aid of the media in recovering the object by providing information and regular updates.