FEMA describes “mitigation” as the effort to reduce loss of life and property by lessening the impact of disasters. They continue: “In order for mitigation to be effective we need to take action now—before the next disaster—to reduce human and financial consequences later (analyzing risk, reducing risk, and insuring against risk).”
FEMA further describes mitigation in their “National Mitigation Framework” to include the following types of emergency preparedness activities:
- Threats and Hazard Identification. Build cooperation between private and public sectors by protecting internal interests but sharing threats and hazard identification resources and benefits.
- Risk and Disaster Resilience Assessment. Perform credible risk assessments using scientifically valid and widely used risk assessment techniques.
- Planning. Incorporate the findings from assessment of risk and disaster resilience into the planning process.
- Community Resilience. Recognize the interdependent nature of the economy, health and social services, housing infrastructure and natural and cultural resources within a community.
- Public Information and Warning. Target messages to reach organizations representing children, individuals with disabilities or access and functional needs, diverse communities and people with limited English proficiency.
- Long-Term Vulnerability Reduction. Adopt and enforce a suitable building code to ensure resilient construction.
- Operational Coordination. Capitalize on opportunities for mitigation actions following disasters and incidents.
Prepare for Incidents, Emergencies, and Disasters
Be prepared for events large and small. Can you handle small pipe leaks? Have you considered the risks and potential responses to community Emergencies, or even regional Disasters?
Building Community Relationships
Regardless of the size of the incident, it will be very helpful to get to know your local Emergency Management Director (EMD)! Feel free to use the following forms, drafted by COSTEP MA, to get the ball rolling with your municipal offices and EMD who can incorporate the information into the local emergency plan.
- Cultural Resources Inventory Form introductory letter
- Cultural Resources Inventory Form for Cultural Institutions
- Cultural Resources Inventory Form for Municipal Offices
In community-wide emergencies and regional disasters, consider that effective communications are paramount. EMD tend to prefer hierarchical structures, typified by the following COSTEP MA Command and Control structure document. It is helpful to identify a Cultural Triage Officer, who serves as the primary contact between the two communities, before any emergency. Consider taking courses and trainings on NIMS/ICS, offered by MEMA and FEMA.
Identifying, Assessing, and Prioritizing Risks
Consider a holistic view of risk. There are many ways objects of cultural heritage can get damaged, from large-scale regional disasters like hurricanes, to commonplace, object-level issues like improper handling. Regardless of your type of collection or institution, it can be effective to approach risk management holistically in order to most effectively mitigate against all drivers of collections damage.
A simplified framework for holistic risk management in cultural heritage is Assessment, Planning, and Action, and it has a lot in common with the steps of Mitigation, Response, and Recovery. For additional information on holistic risk management for collections of many types, some well-known international resources are available:
- Library of Congress’ (LC) Risk Management;
- Canadian Conservation Institute’s (CCI) Risk Management for Heritage Collections resources;
- International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions’ (IFLA) Disaster Risk Response;
- American Institute for Conservation (AIC) Preventative Care Wiki;
- International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property’s (ICCROM) Guide to Risk Management of Cultural Heritage; and
- American Alliance of Museum’s (AAM) Standards for Facilities and Risk Managment.
Assessment: Identifying, estimating, and prioritizing risks. CCI’s “Agents of Deterioration” is an excellent resource that lists ten primary threats to heritage objects and how to detect, block, report, and treat the damage they cause.
Planning: Research and preparation to minimize risks, according to established best practices, and their priority for the institution.
Action: How will you respond to the assessment data and planning recommendations? Are there priorities for preservation, building issues, or Disaster Recovery Teams and Disaster Salvage preparations that need to be established and maintained?
COSTEP MA resources and partners are focused on supporting all aspects of risk management (identification/assessment, planning, and action) for infrequent but potentially catastrophic environmental and other types of disasters for cultural organizations in Massachusetts.