Identify and Communicate

What is the scale of the event – is it local (Incident), community-wide (Emergency), or regional (Disaster)? Communicate internally and externally as appropriate.

Community-wide/large Emergencies

Your local Emergency Management Director (EMD), in conjunction with many local partners such as police, fire, as well as state agencies, will lead Emergency Responses in any community wide disaster. (Hopefully your institution already has a relationship with your EMD – this relationship is an important and easy step in your emergency response planning!)

The first priority of EMDs and response professionals is human life and safety. They will use standards in communication called National Incident Management System (NIMS) and Incident Command System (ICS). MEMA offers trainings, as does FEMA.

Take a look at the following FEMA document, ICS for Public Works, to see how ICS can enhance communication and information-sharing among Public Works staff and public and private institutions in your community.

Smaller, Local Collection Emergencies

Contain/Stop the Damage

Are collections are at risk? Is the risk ongoing or has it been contained? Remove collection objects from the affected areas, if it is safe to do so.

Do you have response supplies on hand (see below)? Do you need more external help? Call the FREE Emergency Response hotlines for more information:


Every institution should keep at least a basic supply and equipment kit on hand to be used in an emergency. The kit should be stored in one or more sealed watertight containers and clearly labeled “Disaster Kit – Do Not Use for Other Purposes” so that materials are not removed inadvertently. Indicate the quantity of supplies your institution has on hand and where the supplies are located. (Also specify how the supplies can be retrieved if they are kept in locked storage.)

SAA’s Supplies lists selected suppliers of disaster recovery materials. For SAA’s May Day 2019, AIC/FAIC’s Connecting to Collections Care Online posted three videos of Washington, DC, area institutions sharing their Emergency Supply Kits and Go-Bags. Take a look at all three!

  • There are a number of sample supply lists, which we will point to here. Some are over-the-top thorough. However, at a minimum, it is recommended to have buckets, plastic sheeting, tape, scissors, mops, & towels.

Burst pipe

  • Can you shut off water and electricity in the general area?
  • Specifically locate the problem
  • Call professionals to fix the problem, and if needed, electricians and disaster recovery specialists
  • Submit an insurance claim

Isolate Affected Materials, Prepare for Recovery

Have collection objects been damaged? Isolate them and get them ready for recovery: make a list of objects that have been affected as best you can, including format, catalog or accession info, extent of damage.

Find triage / recovery space

Setting up an area with tables, dehumidifiers, and fans is extremely helpful in isolating affected materials and beginning recovery. In order to triage the damage, you need to inspect each object or container/box to record what got damaged, how badly, and whether you need additional help to stabilize objects with a vendor.

Hopefully you have previously established contacts with vendors. Take another look at COSTEP MA’s “Establishing Relationships with Recovery Vendors” document.