Creating an Emergency Preparedness Plan

Creating an Emergency Preparedness Plan
Every museum should have an Emergency Preparedness Plan. Every new staff member and volunteer should be given a copy of it. Annual training sessions are important to keep people up to speed on emergency procedures.

There are many workshops and conference sessions to attend that will teach you the details of putting together an Emergency Preparedness Plan. Here I will outline the basic elements of my museum’s plan. (See the link below for an excellent guide to creating this kind of document)

1. What are potential emergencies?

In this section we describe the kinds of situations that could arise at our museum:

Natural Disasters
floods, fire (electrical, brush, forest), earthquake, hurricane, tornado, windstorm, blizzard, volcanic eruption, mud slide, tidal wave

Industrial Disasters
power failure, fuel supply failure, water supply failure, sewer failure, explosion, chemical spill, structural collapse, structural fire (internal or external), nuclear power plant accident

broken fuel pipe lines, broken sewer or water pipes, downed electrical or phone lines, construction equipment, motor vehicles, transport of chemicals or fuels, transport of nuclear materials, weapons

Human Impact
vandalism, careless handling of collection, armed robbery, theft, arson, bombing, bomb threat, conventional or nuclear warfare, riots, civil disturbances, terrorist attack

2. What damage could result?

Here we discuss what possibilities might result from any of the above disaster. There could be smoke and water damage or broken power lines to contend with. One thing that people often overlook is the way staff handles artifacts after a disaster. Without proper training, PEOPLE can further damage artifacts that have already been compromised from the disaster itself.

3. General emergency guidelines

It is important for staff to know what is expected of them in any kind of emergency. Everyone should be familiar with the layout of the building, including primary and alternate escape routes and exit doors.

At our museum we have established an Emergency Tag System. Cards representing each location in our building hang on hooks in the Front Office. During an emergency – a power outage, missing child, tornado siren, etc. – each staff member reports to the Front Office and takes one of the cards. On the back are specific instructions for evacuating that area of the building.

4. Evacuation guidelines

Staff should be aware that they should not risk their own safety to evacuate visitors. In the event of a serious emergency, wait for trained emergency services to complete an evacuation. Never use the elevator during an emergency. Set up a specific location for staff to meet outside. Someone should be in charge of the master staff schedule to create a checklist and account for all personnel.

5. Resources

Your Emergency Preparedness Plan should include resources for salvaging artifacts and instructions on how to care for various materials in the event of an emergency. To minimize additional damage, regular staff workshops should be held so everyone understands the best way to handle a damaged artifact.

Future articles will discuss specific procedures to follow for assessing damage to your collection.

You Should Also Read:
Handling Museum Donors
So You Want to Be a Curator
Museum Career Skills -- Professional Organizations

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