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Definition

Emergency preparedness is an important component of a comprehensive preservation plan, and it can be the point at which everyone begins to understand the broader needs for preservation in an institution. The cornerstones of emergency preparedness are risk assessment, an effective communication system, training and supplies. A written plan is just one element, and can be a starting point, but being prepared is an activity that takes a great deal of time and that is ongoing, but has many unintended benefits for all of the staff in the institution. It can be a tool for involving everyone on the staff in the preservation needs of the collections. Emergency preparedness planning is an administrative function because it includes decisions and resources that must come from the highest level in the institution, but the planning is something that must be carried out by the conservators, curators and personnel who are most involved in the daily care of the collections and those involved in the functioning of the facilities.

Seibert, Ann, Senior Paper Conservator, Emergency Preparedness for Library of Congress Collections, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., 1996

"Assessing and managing risk is an integral part of managing collections, as are the issues of emergency preparedness, and the security of buildings and their contents....collections have established disaster plans and emergency preparedness strategies. In many cases these have been prepared as part of the host institution’s planning processes.

"Risk assessment requires a degree of expertise in order to assess successfully the long-term risks of ignoring collection care and environmental control. These are the circumstances that can develop unnoticed over long periods and lead to a disaster situation...."

Benchmarks in Collection Care for Museums, Archives and Libraries: A Self-assessment Checklist (PDF format file to download), re:Source, The Council for Museums, Archives and Libraries, 2002,

References

Planning, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

The Environmental, Historic Preservation, and Cultural Resources function provides assistance to FEMA's programs and states and communities to efficiently deliver disaster services in a manner that ensures that we address all applicable environmental and historic preservation policies.

Hazard mitigation planning is the process of determining how to reduce or eliminate the loss of life and property damage resulting from natural and human-caused hazards.

Cultural Resource Management, National Park Service

Ch. 10a-b: Emergency Planning (download PDF format file) and Ch. 10c-f: Emergency Planning (download PDF format file), Part I, Museum Collections, Museum Handbook, Museum Management Program, National Park Service.

Collection Priorities for Disaster Recovery, Chapter 5, Disaster Plan Workbook, Preservation Department, Bobst Library, New York University

Balloffet, Nelley. Emergency Planning and Recovery Techniques, Lower Hudson Conference of Historical Agencies & Museums, Elmsford, New York, May 1999.

Seibert, Ann, Senior Paper Conservator, Emergency Preparedness for Library of Congress Collections, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., 1996

Standard for the Protection of Cultural Resources Including Museums, Libraries, Places of Worship, and Historic Properties. Quincy, MA: National Fire Protection Association, 1997, Tel. 800 344-3555.

The 2001 edition of NFPA 909 establishes new requirements for providing fire protection and fire safety to a wide range of cultural institutions including libraries, museums and places of worship. Requirements address:

  • Construction
  • Alarm and suppression systems
  • Proper equipment use
  • Operational requirements to prevent or minimize the effects of fire

Emergency Planning and Recovery Techniques, Lower Hudson Conference

Writing an emergency plan helps the staff accept the fact that emergencies can happen and that coping with them is primarily the responsibility of the institution. In the process, staff members become familiar with the building, emergency procedures and priorities within the collection.

Lower Hudson Conference of Historical Agencies & Museums is a regional service agency providing professional training, networking and technical assistance support to museums, historical societies, archives and libraries in the Hudson Valley.

Tremper, Charles [R.] and George Babcock. The Nonprofit Board's Role in Risk Management: MoreThan Buying Insurance. Washington: National Center for Nonprofit Boards, c 1990.

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