Emergency Guidelines for Museum Staff

Emergency Guidelines for Museum Staff
Each department in a museum has specific responsibilities when handling a disaster. Here are some things to think about for your museum staff. For specific advice, please click on the link below for an excellent resource to help you begin creating an emergency preparedness plan.

Front Office

All areas of the building need to be able to hear the PA system. Coordinate training of PA system for staff, volunteers, etc.

Think about which business records need to be backed up in case they need to be reconstructed after an emergency (PO records, contact information for staff, etc.).

Keep a list of emergency numbers in a central location and be sure that all staff has a copy to keep near their phones.

PR & Marketing

Prepare an advance press release on the Museum’s plan and how it will be used in an emergency. Keep a copy of press release and mailing list off-site. Send your release immediately after a disaster/emergency situation. It is important for the community to know that you are handling the situation professionally. Coordinate a marketing plan with all staff so there is one official “voice” for the museum in the media.


Establish a personal rapport with local fire and police chiefs – include them on guest lists for special events, openings, etc. Invite them to tour the facility and advise on preparedness and response issues. If you are seen publicly pushing the emergency preparedness process, community leaders are more likely to get behind your effort.


Familiarize yourself and your volunteers with emergency salvage procedures for archival materials and artifacts, and with resources available for assistance.

Make a list of essential emergency supplies needed to take care of damaged archival materials. Be sure that all staff members have a copy of the Emergency Preparedness Plan and are trained in basic salvage techniques.

Keep an offsite backup of all collections databases.

Volunteer Coordinator

Organize emergency training for volunteers. Make sure every volunteer knows where the emergency exits are located and at least two escape routes from their station in the building. They should also be aware of where the fire extinguishers are located.

Keep records of contact information for volunteers off site in case your records are destroyed. You should also know which volunteers are in the building at all times so you can be sure everyone was evacuated safely.


Keep back up copies of important records off site. Be able to reconstruct vital financial information without access to your office, computer, files, etc.

Make a list of account numbers, financial contacts, etc. to keep off site.

Director of Education

Make regular backups of tour group database and store off site.

If possible, maintain contact information off site for upcoming groups in order to cancel tours in the event of a disaster/emergency.


Continue to do regular checks of building conditions inside and outside to avoid potential hazards.

Keep fire extinguishers, emergency lighting, and alarms up to date and functional. Inform staff of any changes to streamline evacuation and emergency procedures.

You Should Also Read:
Assessing Collections Damage
Creating an Emergency Preparedness Plan
BOOK REVIES -- Museum Careers, A Practical Guide

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Content copyright © 2019 by Kim Kenney. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Kim Kenney. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Kim Kenney for details.