We at COSTEP MA invite you to join us for our blog series on writing – or updating – your disaster plan. Over the next month and a half, we will be posting tips and guidance each Tuesday on emergency management and disaster planning. The culmination of this series will be our live tabletop exercise (TTX) on September 22, 2020, at which you can put your completed disaster plan to the test! Not sure what a TTX is? Check out our post explaining the activity. All are welcome to join us for this disaster plan writing series, whether or not you are participating in the tabletop exercise. Mark your calendars for TTX Tuesdays!

Week One: Getting Started with Your Disaster Plan

Disasters, both natural and man-made, have the potential to damage or destroy cultural collections. Despite awareness of risk, some institutions lack time and resources to devote to emergency planning. Keeping up with day-to-day operations often takes precedence over the significant effort of planning for events that appear unlikely to happen. Nevertheless, time spent on emergency planning may, in the end, turn out to be the most cost-effective use of resources in the history of an institution.

(NEDCC Preservation Leaflet 3.3 Emergency Planning)

It is helpful to work through emergency preparedness planning in a series of manageable steps, which is our intention with this blog series. You will be able to prioritize planning for the highest risks and use your resources efficiently, although having just the most basic emergency management practices in place will help prepare your institution to handle disasters large and small.

There are many (free) resources out there to walk you through the process of writing or revising a disaster plan. Though in the process of being updated, dPlan is a free online tool that remains accessible. It is also highly instructional, with an extensive outline, webform templates for each section, and explanations and definitions along the way. Any information entered into the current version of dPlan may be transferred to the updated version upon its release.

The first phase of writing (or updating) your disaster plan is risk assessment. The idea is to enter the Emergency Management Cycle at the planning stage in an effort to mitigate risks and prevent disasters to the extent that it is possible.

Image of the Emergency Management Cycle, which includes the steps of preparedness, response, recovery, prevention, and mitigation.

Through risk assessment, you will identify potential problems due to your particular circumstances, such as regional hazards, local hazards, building hazards, etc. You can’t prevent some hazards from occurring (such as a hurricane), but you might be able to mitigate damage from them, but only if you understand the risks.

Again, there are great tools out there to help you assess for risk. We recommend the Risk Evaluation and Planning Program (REPP) from the American Institute for Conservation (AIC), particularly the REPP Risk Prioritization Worksheet, available here.

Snippet from the Foundation for Advancement in Conservation (FAIC) Risk Evaluation and Planning Program (REPP), Risk Prioritization Worksheet

Preparedness comes next: This is the gathering of information and the pulling together of resources. The risk assessment will give you a lot of this information; it also helps guide your planning to address the most likely risks you have. A handy place to keep all of your disaster planning information and resources is dPlan, and a helpful tool for gathering the needed information is NEDCC’s Preservation Leaflet 3.4 Worksheet for Outlining an Emergency Response Plan.

This week, your task is to conduct a self-assessment of institutional risk. Next week we will focus on gathering information about your institution. We look forward to working with you on your disaster planning!