TSG Chapter IV. Emergency Preparedness, Response & Recovery for Textiles - Section A. Emergency Prevention & Preparedness

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Emergency Prevention and Preparedness

Emergency Action Plan

Emergency action plans are necessary for any artifact collection; simple precautionary measures can protect collections and prevent damage from unexpected disasters. Considerations like the possibility of floods, earthquakes, arson, building maintenance mishaps, pipe failures, and any other local environmental information should be one of the first concerns in the creation of the storage or exhibit facility and should continue to be at the forefront of the curators, conservators, management, and staffs minds throughout the life and housing of the collection. In the case of earthquakes, simple precautions can be taken to prevent damage to artifacts. Elastic, or bungee, cords can be strung in front of shelves containing fragile artifacts to keep them from tumbling to the ground. To prevent collection damage from flooding, shelving units can be raised on bricks or stilts, as well (Buchanan 1981, 242). These things may prove critical in saving artifacts in the case of an emergency.

Another major consideration is the type of fire prevention system put in place in the storage and display areas. Water from fire suppression systems can cause a large amount of damage to artifacts, especially books, photos, textiles, and other organics. The cost of installation, upkeep, and damage control, if the system is activated, should be considered in choosing the type of fire system (Silence, 2010, 207). Statistics show that if a fire must be stopped by a fire department some 11,000 gallons of water could be sprayed into the collections areas, whereas a sprinkler system could catch and eliminate a early, preventing the need for the fire department (Buchanan 1981, 227). Even though water is considered especially harmful, the benefits, risks, and overall preservation of objects damaged by water verses damage by fire should be taken into consideration (Buchanan 1981, 228).

There should, also, be an emergency kit that can bring in dehumidifiers, fans, personnel, and any other equipment when it is necessary. Disaster planning should have a designated leader and protocol for communication, too. A quick response time and organization will help minimize the impact of the disaster. Having a catalog that states where materials and artifacts are located in the museum, or storage area, easily accessible, even during an emergency, will also minimize confusion and will help locate the artifacts and materials that are of extreme significance or are susceptible to damage in the collection to be saved first (Turkovic-Kiseljev 1995, 82).

When the time comes to treat the damaged materials, a team should be set up to inventory and assess the damage and act accordingly (Turkovic-Kiseljev 1995, 82). Depending on the size and extent of the damage some materials may need to be frozen to prevent mold, bacteria growth, or deterioration while an appropriate plan of action is decided upon or while other materials are being treated (Buchanan 1981, 247).

All of these things should be considered in an emergency response plan. In the case that a disaster strikes, these preventative measures will save time, money, and resources in the care and rehousing of the collection. To help with this decision making process, the Heritage Preservation: The Nation Institute for Conservation has come up with an Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel which aids in making these critical evaluations [1].

References

Buchanan, S. Library Trends. Disaster: Prevention, Preparedness and Action. Fall 1981; pg. 241-252.
Silence, P. Textile Conservation.Preventative conservation at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Elsevier Ltd., Burlington, MA; 2010; 206-220.
Turkovic-Kiseljev, D. Journal of the American Institute for Conservation. Rescuing Water-Damaged Textiles during the Los Angeles Riots. Vol. 34; 1995; pg. 77-83.

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