Building Community Relationships

Arthur Dutil speaks at the Risk Assessment Training session at Harwich, MA on May 15, 2014.

Arthur Dutil speaks at the Risk Assessment Training session at Harwich, MA on May 15, 2014.        Courtesy Andy Grilz

All disasters are local, and many of us would love to be able to handle whatever comes our way by ourselves. Yet the reality is that emergencies and disasters can grow beyond our independent resources, and there may be a need to call for help. In these critical moments, wouldn’t it be a relief to call someone you already know and trust—someone who understands your collections and can step right in to help?

COSTEP MA can help you set up this support network among the cultural institutions in your community, and we can help this network integrate into the larger emergency management plan for your city or town. Consider the following scenario: Days of steady rain have led to a rise in a town’s water table. Water starts seeping into the basement of Town Hall, where boxes of permanent records are stored. The town clerk has attended several community meetings facilitated by COSTEP MA, and as a result knows the town’s library director and the director of the local historical society. The town clerk gives them a call, and the library director is able to send over supplies for boxing up wet records, and the historical society director offers the use of freezer space to stabilize the boxes until they can be properly dried. The town clerk also calls the local emergency management director, who is able to deploy some manpower to the scene to help with the response. Additionally, a call is placed to COSTEP MA and assistance from the Massachusetts State Archives and the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners arrives on site by the end of the day to help assess the situation and plan for recovery. The town clerk is confident that appropriate help will be provided because the relationships were established before the emergency; the town clerk was not left scrambling to figure out who to turn to in the midst of the crisis.

A real-life example of this support network is the Salem Chapter of COSTEP MA. A wide range of cultural institutions in Salem has banded together to explore mitigation, preparedness, and response activities together. The group also has close ties to the first responders in their city, especially in the fire department.  If the scenario above occurred in Salem, they would be ready. They would know who to call. Wouldn’t you love to have that same certainty? You can, and COSTEP MA can help you get there. A great way to start developing this support network in your community is with a Community Meeting. These meetings allow cultural institutions to get together while also bringing in your town or city’s emergency management personnel. You don’t want to be exchanging business cards with your city or town’s Emergency Management Director (EMD) during an emergency. Not sure who your EMD is? Check out the Emergency Management Director directory available on the homepage of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. Then contact your EMD. You’ll both be glad you did.

For more information about building community relationships, click here.