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Heritage Hub Collections Care training

Online Collections Care training

How to preserve your community or family archive

Advice on how to protect and look after your physical archive


Collections Care 13: emergency planning

Want to be prepared in case things go wrong? Like to be able to sort out problems fast?

“I have never been in an accident of any sort and have never been wrecked, nor was I ever in any predicament that threatened to end in disaster of any sort” E J Smith (SS Titanic)

It can happen to anyone! The best thing we can do is be prepared just in case!

In Collections Care 4, we made a couple of suggestions for reducing risks from fire or water. This time we are going to look at what you can do if something bad happens, and how to be ready to respond quickly. Water is the most common hazard. Even if not directly affecting items, dampness in the air can lead to mould.

Obviously the best thing would be to prevent bad things happening in the first place, so looking out for possible risks and reducing those is always good.

You might want to think about:

  • any water pipes (including bathrooms on floors above), drains and inflammable materials in the area
  • avoiding direct sources of heat in the room - like open fires, stoves or heaters
  • smoke detectors and regular testing
  • what fire extinguishers are available and if people know how to use them
  • checking that roofing and guttering are in good condition
  • helping water to drain away effectively if extreme weather or flooding is a risk
  • windows or skylights nearby that could leak or might get condensation
  • avoiding basements for storage
  • keeping things away from uninsulated outside walls
  • keeping things off the ground
  • keeping computers backed up and supporting paperwork safe
  • looking out for things that are unprotected or on display as well as those in your store

Of course there are always unexpected events in life (Covid-19 being a prime example!), so it is good to have a "What to do if . . ." plan in place.

The links at the bottom of the page will give you more information. Meanwhile, here are some key points to consider. It is best to:

  • make sure everyone is aware of the risk of fire and/or flood
  • have easy to follow steps including emergency phone numbers, where/how to turn off water or electrical supplies, where to find emergency clean up materials, and how to salvage items
  • regularly update phone numbers
  • make sure people know what to do (or at least where to find the instructions!)
  • identify items to be rescued first
  • have plastic sheeting available to temporarily protect collections at risk if they can’t be moved
  • make emergency numbers and contact details easy to find, including for insurance
  • have ready-made solutions for small problems like leaks
  • arrange outside help in case of larger events
  • when something does happen, make sure you understand why and what to do in future
  • act promptly to limit the impact of an event and avoid further deterioration

You could update your Caring for Collections action checklist (Collections Care 3), to check off the prevention, planning and recovery tips and celebrate what you have done!

Page updated: 17/11/2020 Page updated by: Ally McConnell

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