General Emergency Planning

Many excellent resources in emergency response are free or otherwise easily available; various organizations have already compiled exhaustive lists of resources. It can be easy to get lost among the many resources available, so the following are intended for informational purposes only, to practically help you approach your emergency planning.

Additional resources:
Caring for Your Family Treasures by Jane and Richard Long, Published by Harry Abrams, Inc., 2000; Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel Heritage Preservation, 2005 (Also available as an iPhone app, ERS: Emergency Response and Salvage) Field Guide to Emergency Response Heritage Preservation, 2006 Preservation Management for Libraries, Archives and Museums, G.E. Gorman and Sydney J. Shep, eds. Facet Publishing, U.K., 2006

Creating Emergency Response and Disaster Plans

Creating and maintaining a disaster plan is critical for the successful recovery of cultural resources after a disaster, large or small. The plan should include at a minimum information on the institutional chain of command, who to contact regarding an event, salvage priorities, available supplies and services, and the steps toward recovery of collections and institutional services. 

Disaster plans can be small and simple or large and full of information, depending on the size and needs of your institution. If no plan exists, start with the minimum information and decide to build on the disaster plan every year until a full, comprehensive plan for your institution has been created. Something, anything is better than nothing!

Templates and guidance on Disaster Plans are available at NEDCC’s dPlan™ and dPlan™ Lite; California Preservation Program; Central New York Library Resources Council; Council of State Archivists (CoSA) Pocket Response Plan (PReP)™; National Archives and Records Administration; Western New York Library Resources Council

Information for Libraries

The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) offers a program for MA Public Libraries for free consultations and defray costs to stabilization. In the event of a water emergency to your public library collections, or to learn more, contact MBLC Preservation Specialist Evan Knight (617-725-1860 x236) to provide more information on the subsidy.

The Disaster Information Management Center (DIMRC) at the U.S. National Library of Medicine provides a curated Bibliography of published literature highlighting library roles in disaster preparedness, response, and recovery, from 2014 to the present. Health Science Librarians in Massachusetts (and the Massachusetts Health Sciences Library Network), might be particularly interested in DIMRC’s additional training, webinars, email lists. DIMRC also provides a great deal of literature, reference databases, and even mobile apps that can be thought of as a digital “Go-Bag” of information for emergency responders to identify and mitigate immediate and ongoing disasters, from natural, chemical, medical, and environmental.

DIMRC has also released information regarding Public Libraries and the Stafford Act, which opens up Federal support for Public Libraries to recover and re-open in the event of a Federally-declared Disaster.

Library of Congress’What to do When Collections Get Wet” is very helpful. In addition to clearly outlining drying procedures and decision-making points for stabilization of multiple formats (books, flat paper, and photographs/negatives), it outlines the following “First Actions” in any water leak:

  • Take necessary human safety precautions
  • Stop the flow of water
  • If water is dripping, cover collections with plastic sheeting and place buckets under the leak
  • If water is on the floor, contain further spread
  • If possible, move nearby, but still dry collections to an unaffected space
  • Keep the affected space cool (below 65 degrees F if possible)
  • Reduce the humidity (below 40% if possible) by circulating air, turning on air conditioning, removing water from the floors, etc.

Resources from the American Library Association are helpful: “Helping United States Libraries After Disasters” includes funding opportunities. For School Libraries, there is the “Inspire Disaster Recovery Grant.”

Additional books:
Disaster Response and Planning for Libraries, Third Edition, by Miriam Kahn, American Library Association (ALA), 2012; An Ounce of Prevention: Integrated Disaster Planning for Archives, Libraries, and Record Centers, by Johanna Wellheiser and Jude ScottScarecrow Press, Inc. & Canadian Archives Foundation, 2002
Register of Standards, Codes of Practice, Guidelines Recommendations and Similar Works Relating to Preservation and Conservation in Libraries and Archives, by John McIlwaine International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), 2005

Information for Archives

Did you know that local governments in federally-declared disaster areas can be eligible for disaster funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for recovery, removal, stabilization and restoration of damaged records?

The Council of State Archivists (CoSA) offers excellent publications for purchase: Rescuing Family Records (print or download) and Rescuing Business Records for Small Businesses. For collecting institutions, they offer free templates for printing a foldable response plan that can fit into a wallet-sized tyvek (i.e., waterproof) envelope.

CoSA also offers a series of free webinars on emergency preparedness, including a presentation on the Heritage Emergency National Task Force (HENTF):

SAA’s National Disaster Recovery Fund can provide funding support for stabilization and recovery for archival collections. Your institution does not need to be a member of SAA.

New York State Archives provides excellent information for Disaster Preparednessfor archives. Although focused for institutions in NY State, there are great resources on decision-making for damaged paper records in the context of working with freezing/stabilization vendors.

Canadian Council of ArchivesBasic Conservation of Archival Materials – Chapter 5, “Disaster Planning and Recovery”

Information for Fine and Decorative Art

Tips, Tales and Testimonies to Save Outdoor Sculpture Heritage Preservation, 2002

Information for the Built Environment

The Association of Preservation Technology International (APT).

National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (NCPTT).

Caring for Your Historic House by Gordon Bock Published by Harry Abrams, Inc., 1998

Information for Electronic Records

NYS Archives guidelines for Electronic Records Preparedness and Recovery.

The Council of State Archivists (CoSA) State Electronic Records Initiative (SERI) and resource portal

Although slightly out-of-date, CoOL’s list of Commercial Services includes vendors for Data Recovery/Data Disaster Prevention.

Information for Arts Organizations

ArtsReady has a particularly useful library of resources covering business continuity and emergency preparedness topics specific to arts organizations.

Cerf+, “the artists safety net,” offers a number of resources, including the free artist studio assessment tool Cerf+ Studio Safety Guide, customizable education and training opportunities, and how-to videos on topics like salvage, artist health, and insurance.

NCAPER, the National Coalition for Arts’ Preparedness & Emergency Response, promotes preparedness among arts organizations and helps to coordinate information sharing and aid seeking during emergencies. For more information, visit their homepage.

Performing Arts Readiness Project has several resources, including a “loss of income calculator,” disaster and business continuity planning grants, and a long list of free webinars covering topics like safety and security, reputation management, and community recovery through arts and culture.

Emergency Alerts from State & National Agencies

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency has developed a number of resources that COSTEP MA partners may find important.

Mass Alerts is MEMA’s mobile app (iOs and Android) that can send notifications to your device alerting you to potential hazards. The alerts can be targeted to any number of locations you choose, and can be specified to include NOAA Advisories, Watches, and Warnings.

Be sure to also check out MEMA’s “Be Informed and Receive Emergency Alerts” page for additional resources.

FEMA also distributes and supports a mobile app that would be worth your time to check out.

LAST UPDATED: April 4, 2019