Refreshing and Reconnecting COSTEP MA

In 2019, COSTEP has focused on three initiatives to move the organization forward:

  1. Website Redesign. Present in clearer and updated ways exactly what we aim to do. Currently in draft, not ready for release. Expected rollout in Summer 2019. Completed June 21, 2019! Welcome to the new website!
  2. Set Communications Policies and Norms. Clarify the strategy behind COSTEP MA messages and publications, and set guidelines for online community discussions.
  3. Symposium 2019! Reconnect institutional and professional partners among the Emergency Response and Cultural communities with an intelligent, practical, and engaging in-person and online event. Scheduled for September 10th, Operations Room of the MEMA Bunker in Framingham. Sessions TBD. 10a – 2p.

Disaster Planning Workshop recap with Pioneer Valley History Network

Submitted by Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) Preservation Specialist (& COSTEP MA co-chair) Evan Knight

On June 15 I led a workshop on practical approaches to disaster planning, with attendees from historical societies and museums from all over Western Mass. The event was hosted by the Pioneer Valley History Network and held at the Deerfield Community Center in Historic Deerfield.

Instead of compiling and sharing some of the great many templates, plans, resources, or reports that are available, I was hoping for a more interactive session. My goal was to facilitate a discussion of what works, what doesn’t, and what we can do better with disaster response, tailored to the capacity and needs of each attendee. Many thanks to PVHN and all the attendees, who contributed great points to our discussion and helped make a great session!

We started by introducing ourselves and our collections, and talking about our issues. All had mixed collections with combinations of art or decorative objects, tools, historic machinery, books, photographs, archives, and more. Buildings ranged from barns to historic homes, and most had ongoing issues of dampness, occasional building envelope leaks, and pests. We also shared some of our recent successes: CPA funding for major projects, good inventory controls for collections, good relationships with emergency responders, and lessons learned from responding to and recovering from previous water leaks.

Some of notes, and links to share, are listed below:

  • For water leaks or really any other minor collections disaster, I suggest the following framework for response: Identify the issue, Isolate the damages, and Communicate at all times.
  • Identify: find the root cause of the water leak and work as quickly as you can to shut it off. If you’ve had roof or gutter issues, make sure you have an appropriate repair person in mind should it arise again. Consider modifying your water system with shut-off valves (and recording their location!) or simpler water heating equipment.
  • Isolate: be prepared to divert leaking water with plastic sheeting into buckets. If you don’t have disaster supplies, consider buying plastic sheeting, scissors, tape, and buckets – in my opinion, these are the most important things to have on hand! Remove nearby collection objects to dry areas and begin recovery, but you will need space for this step, so in your planning, consider where those spaces can be (e.g., what if your emergency is building-wide?) and if you have the tables and people power to do recovery yourself. If not, consider having a recovery vendor pre-screened. Make a list of all affected materials and rate their damage on scale of one to three. A critical question is who to call in for help if you need assistance – if you don’t have space, people, or if the damages affect too many objects, you may need vendors to help right away. Also try to get fans and dehumidifiers going as soon as you can – rent or buy if necessary. For free collections advice during an emergency, definitely call National Heritage Responders, NEDCC Emergency Hotline, or, for Libraries and Archives, MBLC’s Preservation Specialist. Their phone numbers and links are in bold, in red, at the top of every COSTEP MA web page, and conservators or preservation professionals can help you deal with your emergency!
  • Communicate: There can be many internal and external partners in disaster response and recovery. We’re talking mostly about smaller, local emergencies, but it’s important to consider what we’d do in case of a community-wide or even regional disaster: get to know your town’s Emergency Management Director now! Let them know that you’d need to check on your collections as soon as it’s safely possible should anything big strike. If you want to stay informed about extreme weather alerts or other disaster information, an amazing hyperlocal app has been released by Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA): Massachusetts Alerts. For collections damage, consider which stakeholders and partners need to stay informed: Administrators, facilities specialists, staff & volunteers, disaster recovery vendors, and insurance.
  • Double check that your insurance policy can covers your archives, even if unappraised. Umbrella policies don’t usually cover archives but there are riders that can be really helpful.
  • Double check your alarm and fire detection systems. Can you work with fire and police to periodically check your systems? Perhaps host them and their families for a first responder day!
  • Most common pests: mice and powder post beetles. Bucket traps for mice were tough but effective. “Integrated pest management” (IPM) is a general term used to describe an approach some museums take to monitor levels of pest activities, and the results of pest controls, throughout the year. has more information and although fairly old (1997), this page from the Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute is also useful.
  • Consider using a humidistat to control the air in your collections areas. Consider circulating or dehumidifying air in collections spaces when RH is high for a few days in a row.

I like the following documents and shared them with participants:

Additional links:

Communications Policy Drafts Need Your Help

An integral component in refreshing and reconnecting the COSTEP MA network is creating useful communications policies and norms.

We draft a meaningful policy, we need your input. We invite contributors from cultural heritage institutions, including specialists in security, facilities, administration, collections, preservation, and conservation; and the emergency management communities, whether they’re local, state, or federal. As we refresh our value and service propositions, we also need to clarify what and how we communicate. Help us answer some of the following questions:

What can our members expect from COSTEP MA when they sign up?

  • How can we better understand the needs of our constituencies. What information is appropriate to send? Trainings, alerts, periodic updates, Exec board minutes, events, vendor promotions, etc.? Can we have opt-in networks for types of communications, like MEMA-only, NWS-regions, etc.? Is there a format or style/tone guide to follow?
  • How to determine what is in, or out-of-scope? Will a board or committee member be assigned the communications responsibilities?
  • What media suit our constituencies and messages? Emails, social media, our home page, a local or even national email list, etc, are some media that could be available for us. What suit us and our communities best? Any media to embrace; and media we should avoid?

Free Emergency Prep webinar May 22 for Libraries

ALA President Loida Garcia-Febo will host a free webinar, “Library Preparedness for Hurricane Season,” on May 22. Library of Congress Preservation Specialist Alan Haley will review the basic principles of emergency management as an effective way to update your own emergency plans. He will also highlight the steps to create a template for emergencies if you have yet to develop one. Librarians in Houston and Puerto Rico will explain how they were able to rebuild while serving and collaborating with their communities in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.

North Carolina’s Support Fund for Hurricane Damage to Collections

Of potential interest to COSTEP MA members is the recently announced initiative from North Carolina to support collections affected by recent Hurricanes. See below for links and their blurb.

Released May 1, 2019:

The North Carolina Preservation Consortium (NCPC) and the North Carolina Museum Council (NCMC) have joined forces to assist collecting institutions affected by Hurricanes Matthew, Florence, and Michael by creating the Hurricane Relief Support Grant program. This is a two-year program.

Purpose and Scope of Grant

To provide funds for collection supplies for institutions affected by Hurricane Matthew (September-October 2016), Hurricane Florence (September 2018) and Tropical Storm Michael (October 2018).  Institutions within the North Carolina counties declared disaster areas that need collection preservation assistance are eligible to apply for this grant. Those counties can be found here:

Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency Conference 2019

2019 All-Hazards Emergency Management Conference

JUNE 18 & 19, 2019
8:00am – 4:30pm (daily)
Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel & Trade Center

181 Boston Post Rd West, Marlborough, MA 01752

  • Two-day All-Hazards Preparedness Conference for public and private sector emergency managers and other professionals involved in all hazards planning, preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation. 
  • Learn and network with local, state, and federal practitioners from a variety of disciplines, including emergency management, fire services, law enforcement, public health, communications, volunteer organizations, and business and industry.
  • Conference will include presentations, panel discussions, plenary and breakout sessions, and training workshops.

Formal invitation, registration instructions and agenda will be distributed soon.

If you have any interim questions, please contact the Conference Planning Committee at

Emergency Response pre-conference workshop to ALA Annual

On June 21, 2019, ALCTS is sponsoring an exciting program before the ALA Annual called “Better Networking for Disasters.”

Longtime COSTEP MA contributor from FEMA Lori Foley will be speaking. If you plan on attending ALA, be sure to register for this great event:

Using last year’s hurricane season in Puerto Rico as a case study, this session will bring together individuals and organizations involved in disaster response and recovery of cultural heritage. It aims to explore ways to improve coordination and increase engagement of ALA members, in disaster response and recovery. This mix of formal presentations, moderated panels and a breakout session for the audience is designed to inspire collaborations that extend beyond the current modes of working.

AIC/FAIC tours for May Day 2019 on Facebook Live!

Check out the following videos for some great, practical, and fun guidance on Emergency Preparedness in cultural institutions.

Institutional participants included AIC/FAIC, Connecting to Collections Care, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution Archives, and the Library of Congress. Thanks to all the hosts and knowledgable staff for making and sharing these helpful videos!

We’re going live for #MayDayPrep with Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History to see what’s in their emergency response kit! Evan Cooney is joining us with the American Institute for Conservation’s Emergency Committee Chair Becca Kennedy. Learn more about today’s program here:

Posted by Connecting to Collections Care Online Community on Wednesday, May 1, 2019
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

We’re going live for #MayDayPrep with Smithsonian Institution Archives and the National Collections Program to see what’s in their emergency response “go-bags!” Nora Lockshin and Samantha Snell are joining us with the American Institute for Conservation’s Emergency Committee Chair Becca Kennedy. Learn more about today’s program here:

Posted by Connecting to Collections Care Online Community on Wednesday, May 1, 2019
Smithsonian Institution Archives

We’re going live for #MayDayPrep with The Library of Congress to see what’s in their emergency response kit! Andrew Robb and Ashley Greek are joining us with the American Institute for Conservation’s Emergency Committee Chair Becca Kennedy. Learn more about today’s program here:

Posted by Connecting to Collections Care Online Community on Wednesday, May 1, 2019
Library of Congress

News, 4/23/2019

Interested in reading more about the Finding Common Ground program? Take a look at the newsletter of the Emergency Management and Response Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EMR-ISAC):,%202019.pdf

The editor provided the first two links to the fires at Notre Dame and the National Museum of Brazil. Do click on the third link for a terrific Opinion piece that appeared in USA Today on Wednesday, penned by the heads of the National Archives, the Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian.

Also, coming up Workshop:
FEMA is hosting a Crowdsourcing for Emergency Management Workshop on Thursday, May 2, in Burlington, MA, at the Kostas Institute. This workshop brings together state and local emergency managers, geospatial specialists, digital volunteer groups, private sector companies, and crowdsourcing / citizen science specialists to discuss solutions for integrating crowdsourcing into emergency management.

Interested? Seating is limited. Please fill out the interest form and, if selected, you will be sent a formal invite.

The Emergency Management Community

page-18The lessons learned in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma in 2005 serve as evidence that it is crucial to align the emergency preparedness and response needs of cultural resources with those of the local, state, and federal emergency management communities. Although institution-level preparedness is essential, it may be insufficient for area-wide disasters.

What are cultural and historical resources?

Covered under federal Emergency Support Function #11 (ESF #11) of the National Response Framework, our natural and cultural resources and historic properties (NCH) include irreplaceable documents, books, photographs, buildings, significant landscapes, recordings, artwork, furniture, and much more. They are found in a wide range of institutions, from libraries, museums, and archives to parks, historical sites, municipal offices, performing arts organizations, and businesses.

The National Disaster Recovery Framework (NDRF) provides guidance that enables effective recovery support to disaster-impacted states and local, tribal, and territorial jurisdictions. It focuses on how best to restore, redevelop, and revitalize the health and social, economic, natural, and environmental fabric of a community and build a more resilient nation. Of the six Recovery Support Functions in the NDRF, one is devoted entirely to Natural and Cultural Resources.

Why are cultural and historical institutions important?

These institutions play a vital role in every community. As tourist destinations, they may represent a dense and vulnerable concentration of people. Their collections may contain vital records that document ownership of land, births, deaths, and marriages. They may record a community’s history and provide a sense of identity and normalcy to residents in the chaotic aftermath of a disaster. They may also be vital to the economic well-being of the community as a whole.

What do these institutions have to offer?

Cultural heritage stewards are passionate about their profession and want to work with emergency managers to keep their collections safe during emergencies. Cultural and historical institutions have valuable resources and expertise to contribute. For instance, public libraries in Massachusetts are building on their traditional role as a centralized information resource for their communities by working with state and federal emergency management officials to serve as pre-designated sites for Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs)— “one-stop shops” where individuals can receive assistance from local, state, federal, and voluntary agencies after a disaster. Cultural and historic institutions may also have auditoriums and meeting spaces, which can serve as shelters for evacuees, as points of distribution (POD) of aid, or can be staffed for phone banks.

Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA)

MEMA is the state agency with primary responsibility for ensuring the state’s resilience to disasters. MEMA’s staff of professional planners, communications specialists, operations managers, and support personnel is committed to an all-hazards approach to emergency management. By building and sustaining effective partnerships with federal, state, and local government agencies and with the private sector—individuals, families, non-profits and businesses—MEMA ensures the Commonwealth’s ability to rapidly recover from large and small disasters by assessing and mitigating hazards, enhancing preparedness, ensuring effective response, and building the capacity to recover.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards. The range of FEMA’s activities is broad and spans the life cycle of disasters. FEMA’s capabilities include:

  • Advising on building codes and flood plain management
  • Teaching people how to get through a disaster
  • Helping equip local and state emergency preparedness
  • Coordinating the federal response to a disaster
  • Making disaster assistance available to states, communities, businesses, and individuals
  • Training emergency managers
  • Supporting the nation’s fire service
  • Administering the national flood and crime insurance programs