We at COSTEP MA hope our TTX Tuesdays tips and guidance are inspiring you to work on your disaster plan. On September 22, 2020, we’ll wrap up our TTX Tuesdays series with a live tabletop exercise (TTX) where your Massachusetts organization can put your completed disaster plan to the test. Register soon – seats, even though they’re virtual, are going fast!

Last week we enlisted templates to help you populate or update your institutional information, emergency contact lists, and staff responsibilities. This week we’ll explore steps that you can take to prevent many emergencies from occurring at your institution. Even though you can’t possibly prevent all emergencies from happening, knowing the greatest threats that can endanger your facility and collections – and staff – will go a long way in protecting them.

A useful exercise for a staff meeting is brainstorming the hazards that can affect your institution. NEDCC’s dPlan breaks them into categorizes to help you think about a range of hazards: natural, industrial and environmental, building systems and procedures, and construction and renovation. Try the following warm-up activity.

Assign each hazard to one of the squares in this matrix:

Hazard matrix that shows one big square divided into four smaller squares, each labeled with a number and a range from high to low. 12 hazards are listed (such as hurricane or earthquake). The exercise is to place the hazard in a square you think fits the hazard scale (low to high).

Your disaster planning should prioritize developing action steps to deal with any hazards that fall into the high-impact, high-feasibility quadrant 1. Then address the hazards that fall in quadrants 2 and 3. It’s not necessary to focus on how to address hazards falling into quadrant 4, but think hard about what you place there. Who would have thought planning for a pandemic would become so important?

To start identifying hazards, envision concentric circles surrounding your building. Work your way in from the outer-most circle until you get to the building envelope, then continue identifying hazards as you move inside. If you have a facilities manager, be sure that that person is on your disaster planning team. The more all staff knows about your building systems and utilities – water, gas, electricity, climate control, emergency shut-offs, fire detection and suppression, and security – the better able any staff member (or volunteer) can respond to an emergency.

Preventive maintenance is the exact opposite of deferred maintenance. Which one is more likely to result in an emergency? Preventive maintenance tasks can be established based on different schedules for daily, weekly, seasonal, semi-annual, and annual tasks. A daily task could be the all-important walk-through first thing in the morning to ensure that no hazards are present and that no problems occurred while the building was closed. An annual task could be arranging to have your fire extinguishers inspected.

Are you sure you have identified all the natural and industrial hazards that can befall your institution? One way to know for sure is to reach out to your local emergency manager. That official is responsible for planning how to prepare for, respond to, and recover from the hazards that can affect not just your community but the wider region. You might have thought about hurricanes, but have you thought about power outages resulting from a fragile infrastructure?

Get to know your local first responders – fire and police. Inviting firefighters and police to walk through your facility can serve two purposes: (1) they can point out fire hazards and security risks that can jeopardize your collections, and (2) you can familiarize them your building configuration and your collection priorities. When something does happen at your institution that requires outside assistance, the first responders will loom large and be in charge. As emergency managers are wont to say, the time to exchange business cards is not following a disaster. Unsure how to connect with them? Working with Emergency Responders: Tips for Cultural Institutions, from the American Institute for Conservation (AIC), is a terrific primer.

Ready to start identifying hazards and assessing their risks? AIC’s Risk Evaluation and Planning Program (REPP)  has a comprehensive walk-through checklist to help you consider everything from the inside and outside of your building to institutional policies and practices, from collections storage to housekeeping practices and more. Be sure to invite your first responders! They’re only a phone call away.

Next week we’ll start tackling response and recovery: information technology, salvage priorities, and insurance.