COSTEP – The Framework

The Coordinated Statewide Emergency Preparedness (COSTEP) program was developed by the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) in partnership with the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) and the Massachusetts Archives. Other partners included the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies, the Society of American Archivists, Heritage Preservation, and LYRASIS (formerly SOLINET).

The goals of the initiative were to develop, evaluate, and disseminate a model for statewide disaster planning for cultural resources. The three-year project, which ran from 2006 through 2009, addressed the need for state archives and libraries to be better prepared to provide a coordinated response to area-wide disasters. To meet these goals, the project created the COSTEP Framework, a planning tool designed to bring together cultural institutions and emergency management agencies. The Framework provides a blueprint for preparing for area-wide disasters and building alliances with federal, state, and local emergency management agencies.

COSTEP MA ‒ The Pilot Project

COSTEP in Massachusetts (COSTEP MA) began as a pilot program to test the Framework. COSTEP MA’s Steering Committee began meeting in 2007 to determine how the Framework would best work for the cultural and emergency management communities in Massachusetts. Initially spearheaded by the MBLC, the Massachusetts Archives, and NEDCC, along with the New England Museum Association (NEMA) and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), the Steering Committee grew to include members from other institutions and agencies, including FEMA, Tufts University, Historic New England, and the Massachusetts Information Technology Division.

Cooperation is an essential feature of COSTEP, both internally and externally. With that in mind, the Steering Committee brought together a diverse membership from both the cultural and emergency management communities to form the COSTEP MA Advisory Committee, which included:

  • State agencies responsible for cultural resources
  • Emergency managers and first responders from the City of Boston, MEMA, FEMA, and the Department of the Interior
  • City and town clerks and record managers
  • Historic houses and sites
  • Historical societies
  • Public and private libraries, archives, and museums
  • Academic institutions
  • Performing arts organizations
  • Professional organizations
  • Preservation associations

The first meeting of the full Advisory Committee was held on March 21, 2008, at the Massachusetts Archives. At that meeting, the group began a review of the Framework and discussed how it might work in Massachusetts. Due in large part to efforts underway since the early 1990s to integrate cultural resources into emergency planning, it was possible for COSTEP MA to integrate representatives from both the cultural heritage and emergency management communities in a relatively seamless manner.

Six sub-committees were created, all targeted at reaching specific goals of the Framework. The sub-committees included Hazards, Vulnerability, and Mitigation; GIS (Geographic Information System) and Planning; Content; Outreach; Training and Assistance; and Steering/Sustainability.

COSTEP MA – Accomplishments

As a result of regular meetings and hard work by the sub-committees, the Advisory Committee, and the Steering Committee, COSTEP MA succeeded in developing initiatives that integrate the needs of the cultural community into emergency management activities. Using the COSTEP Framework, COSTEP MA has accomplished the following:          

  • Creation of the Protection of Cultural and Historical Resources Annex to the State Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP), which was approved by MEMA in December 2009. This annex coordinates federal, state, local, voluntary, and private resources to assist, preserve, and protect cultural and historic institutions and resources before, during, and after natural or man-made disasters. This annex joins others, such as the Disaster Resource and Logistics Annex and the Debris Management Plan, to address a need heretofore never met.
  • COSTEP MA is now a part of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Team, which is composed of liaisons from Federal, state, local, non-profit, and private-sector agencies and organizations that support MEMA during activations of the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) at MEMA HQ. When needed, COSTEP MA liaisons can report to the SEOC where they will coordinate state-level assistance by COSTEP MA partners and support agencies to supplement local response efforts, as well as provide subject matter expertise for decision makers relating to cultural resources.
  • Coordination of activities with MEMA and FEMA to use public libraries as Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs). DRCs are readily accessible facilities or mobile offices where applicants may go for information about disaster assistance programs offered by FEMA, other federal agencies, and non-profit organizations. Public libraries are an obvious choice for this effort as they are a familiar location, can offer public space, access to computers, and staff that works with the public every day. This effort serves as a way to bring library directors and Emergency Management Directors (EMDs) together to create a more comprehensive disaster response team within the community.   
  • Development of pilot projects for Community Meetings to develop an effective mechanism for integrating cultural resources into the local emergency management plan. These meetings provide an opportunity for cultural heritage stewards, EMDs, and town officials to meet and collaborate to prepare all organizations to respond to a disaster. Find out here how your community can participate.
  • Creation of the Cultural Resources Inventory Form for Cultural Institutions.Completed by each cultural institution in every community, the form is handed to the local EMD for inclusion in the local Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP). This form collates data about the type of facility, the type of collections, existence of potentially hazardous materials, the average number of visitors, and other information that can be helpful to EMDs during response and recovery. Since EMDs are responsible for maintaining and updating local emergency plans, this standardized form and protocol enable a more robust local disaster response for cultural resources than has existed previously. This exchange of information is a prime opportunity for the local cultural community to meet their EMD and begin working together. A separate Cultural Resources Inventory Form for Municipal Offices was subsequently developed to protect the records in the custody of city and town clerks.
  • Creation of a Command and Control structure that can be implemented by municipalities to address the needs of cultural institutions in response to a local disaster. The purpose of the structure is to streamline the communication flow during and after an emergency by funneling information from the local cultural institutions and organizations to the point person (town clerk, library director, etc.), who will then pass the information along to the local EMD. This will ensure that the needs of these institutions are known to the EMDs without adding to their already demanding responsibilities.
  • The COSTEP MA Steering Committee is now the Executive Committee, and By-laws and a Strategic Plan are now in place. The COSTEP MA Advisory Committee is now called, simply, COSTEP MA. The full membership meets every two months. More information about COSTEP MA meetings can be found here.