Wednesday, 17 June 2015




A while back our fearless editor in chief wrote an article for Conservation Tips & Tricks called In Case Of Emergency: Quick Tips For Imperiled Artefacts.  For this post, I want to build upon some of the great advice given, by discussing the importance of an emergency response plan and an emergency response cart. No matter the institution, whether it is a museum, heritage village, art gallery or science centre, all institutions should have a plan and cart onsite and ready to go in case of an emergency or disaster. Because when disaster strikes there are three key ingredients for ensuring a successful recovery:
  1. An up-to-date emergency response plan
  2. Properly trained staff
  3. Sufficient recovery supplies that can be easily accessed and transported quickly to the disaster site
Today it seems that we are no strangers to disaster, with floods, tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, and snowstorms being featured on the news regularly. For those of you currently working in the field or out on internships, it is important to find out if your site has a disaster plan. Perhaps you were given some training in terms of what to do in certain scenarios, such as if there is a fire onsite. If not talk to your supervisor about what plans your institution has in case of an emergency.

In the initial stages of developing your institution's disaster plan it is important to evaluate what types of emergencies and disasters are likely to occur at your site, and design a plan for mitigating and managing these disasters should they occur. When analyzing your site you may come across some interesting potential scenarios.

For example, if your institution is located near a highway, how would staff react if a tanker truck exploded nearby? What would be the response if there were a major shipping accident, and your art gallery was located on the waterfront? How would you and your colleagues respond if the subway tunnel beneath your building caved in?

While the likelihood of any of these scenarios occurring is extremely slim, emergency response plans must consider all possible scenarios, from the more common such as flood, fire or power outage, to the more extreme scenarios of terrorist attacks or warfare.  If your institution does not have an emergency plan in place, there are a number of useful resources on line and in print that can help your site develop a personalized emergency response plan. Here are some great resources:
  1. Field Guide to Emergency Response: A Vital Tool for Cultural Institutions developed by Heritage Preservation: The National Institute for Conservation is a handy and simple guidebook. Additionally, a number of the forms used in the guide can be downloaded from the the Heritage Preservation website here. Video segments from the companion DVD can also be found on YouTube
  2. Be Prepared: Guidelines For Small Museums For Writing A Disaster Preparedness Plan is a useful guide developed by the Heritage Collections Council and available here
  3. The American Alliance of Museums has a downloadable reference guide for Developing a Disaster Preparedness/Emergency Response Plan
  4. The International Council of Museums has developed Guidelines for Disaster Preparedness in Museums, which can be downloaded here
  5. The Canadian Conservation Institution has produced CCI Notes on Emergency Preparedness for Cultural Institutions with additional suggested reading. See CCI Notes 14/1 and 14/2 
  6. The National Parks Service has produced a series of Conserve O Grams on Disaster Response and Recovery that can be downloaded here.
The easiest step in developing an emergency response is the development of an emergency response cart. You do not even need to have an emergency plan in place to develop and maintain one onsite. Staff should begin by investing in a cart or container that can be quickly and easily transport to the disaster site, and is large enough to hold all the supplies. For example, a rigid polyethylene bin with lid and castors.

The following is a basic checklist of items and supplies that should be purchased for the emergency response cart. Materials listed can be sourced from conservation material suppliers such as Carr McLean and Brodart, or from your local hardware stored. Carts should be stored in strategic locations. Large institutions with multiple buildings, structures, or multiple floors should consider maintaining several carts in strategic well-marked locations. Lastly, establishing and maintaining an emergency response cart will include performing monthly inventory checks of all supplies to ensure that the materials needed are in stock.


General Supplies
  • Copy of Emergency Response Plan Emergency phone Lists
  • Clipboard and documentation forms
  • Pencils, permanent ink pens
  • Scissors (2-4 pairs)
  • Door wedges
  • Object tags

Safety Supplies

  • Caution tape and signs
  • First Aid kit
  • Anti-bacterial wipes
  • Respirators or masks
  • Protective clothing, boots
  • Work gloves
  • Nitrile gloves (varying sizes)
  • Safety goggles

Supplies for Removing Water

  • Squeegee with handle
  • Sponge mops
  • Cellulose sponges
  • Bucket
  • Broom
  • Dust pan and brush
  • Rags
  • Terrycloth towelling
  • Paper towels

Lights and Power

  • Flashlight and spare batteries
  • Work lights, stands, extra bulbs
  • Electrical cords, power bars
  • String 

  • Hammer
  • Slot screwdrivers
  • Phillips screwdrivers
  • Pliers
  • Crow bar
  • Vice grips
  • Utility knives with extra blades

Containers, Supports, & Wrapping Materials
  • Roll of 4-mil clear polyethylene
  • 2 rolls duct tape with dispensers
  • Corrugated polypropylene boxes
  • Clear polyethylene bags
  • Heavy-duty garbage bags
  • Nylon cable ties
  • 20 12-inch wood blocks
  • Polyethylene bags
  • Plastic bags

By ensuring your institution is prepared for any emergency or disaster with an up-to-date emergency plan, and a well supplied and maintained emergency response kit you will be able to handle any situation. Well…

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