Disaster Preparedness

Disaster Preparedness Plans

Creating an emergency plan is one of the most important steps you can take towards protecting your collection. The resources below will guide you through the process of creating an emergency plan. Many of these documents have the same information on them, so explore to see which one works best for your institution.

Heritage Preservation and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers these basic guidelines to help you Save Your Treasures the Right Way (pdf).

From Heritage Preservation, here is the first part of a webinar series on Writing a Disaster Plan.”

From the Northeast Museum Services Center, here is a video series on emergency preparedness.

View the Getty Museum’s guide for creating a disaster plan. (pdf)

The American Alliance of Museums offers “Developing a Disaster Preparedness/Emergency Response Plan Reference Guide” as part of preparing for the Core Documents Verification Program.

You may get some ideas from looking at “Be Prepared: Guidelines for Small Museums for Writing a Disaster Preparedness Plan.”

The Pocket Response Plan (PReP)™ is a concise document for recording essential information needed by staff in case of a disaster. Fill in your institution’s information, and then every person having a response-related assignment should carry a plan like this with them at all times: PReP (pdf)

The Texas Association of Museums PREP: Planning For Response & Emergency Preparedness manual covers preparation and risk management, assessment, and recovery.

Everyone at your institution should know or have access to the emergency contact information on this disaster preparedness sheet (pdf) provided by Heritage Preservation.

Unsure what types of disasters tend to threaten your collection? Check out the declared disasters by year or state from FEMA.

Hurricane on the horizon? Heritage Preservation provides some ways to prepare for the coming storm.

Find out what the ten most common threats to your collection are.

Learn about Exercising Your Disaster Response Plan with this webinar and related materials from theConnecting to Collections Online Community.

The Georgia Archives provides this quick Disaster Prevention and Safety Checklist. (pdf)

The Dew Point Calculator is a free, web-based application that you can use to find the best environment for your collection based on temperature and relative humidity.

Disaster Response & Recovery Plan

Heritage Preservation’s booklet Working with Emergency Responders: Tips for Cultural Institutions” (pdf) urges institutions to familiarize themselves with the systems and practices of local emergency responders.

Disaster planning is essential for all institutions. Should your emergency plan fall short, however, here are some tips for dealing with endangered photographs, books, records, metals, etcetera.

The Georgia Archives provide tips for Responding to a Mold Outbreak. (pdf)

This Library Disaster Plan Template, created by the California Preservation Program and supported by the IMLS Library Services & Technology Act, includes both disaster preparedness and recovery information tailored to libraries. (pdf)

The Getty Conservation Institute provides advice for responding to a collections theft.

Heritage Preservation offers a free Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel for the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. To download this app, search for “ERS: Emergency Response and Salvage.” This wheel is widely used by museums, libraries, and archives and can now be accessible on your mobile device, outlining stages of disaster response and providing practical advice for dealing with your collections during the first 48 hours after a disaster. A tangible version of the wheel, created by the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, is also available for purchase.

Find advice on salvaging the following objects from damage from the Northeast Document Conservation Center and the National Park Service:

Wet photographs
Wet books and records
Moldy books and paper
Water-soaked furniture and wood

Here are some tips on purchasing and installing sump pumps. 

The Library of Congress provides step-by-step actions in “Emergency Drying Procedures for Water Damaged Collections.”

Heritage Preservation’s 2008 “Guide to Navigating Federal Emergency Management Agency and Small Business Administration Disaster Aid for Cultural Institutions” (pdf) provides the eligibility, policies, and forms needed when applying for government aid.

The Smithsonian Institution published their “Primer on Disaster Preparedness, Management and Response: Paper-Based Materials.” (pdf)

Risk Assessment

This technical leaflet from the Minnesota Historical Society introduces the unpleasant but necessary subject of risk assessment for your small museum or historic site. It offers good advice on how to begin.

There are many formal and informal ways to assess your collection and its environment.  The Conservation Assessment: A Proposed Model for Evaluating Museum Environmental Management Needs, published by the well-respected Getty Conservation Institute, may be used as a guide for assessing and working toward improved collections care.

Need a comprehensive framework for enumerating the many risks your collection faces? Check out the Ten Agents of Deterioration, ranging from “physical force” to “pests” to “thieves and vandals” to “disassociate.” Each section defines the agent, suggests how you can take steps to control the risk, and provides further reading on each risk.

From Heritage Preservation, here is the first part of a series on Risk Evaluation.”