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Preparing Your Institution for Hurricanes

hurricanesAs Hurricane Irene approaches the United States, the Heritage Emergency National Task Force offers the following advice to museums, libraries, archives, and historical societies for protecting collections and records from wind and water damage.

Stay informed: Follow National Hurricane Center advisories.

Before the Storm
Here are some basic precautions to take if there is time and you can undertake them safely. These are excerpted from the Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel (©2005, Heritage Preservation):

  • Move vital records and high priority items away from windows and below-ground storage into water-resistant areas. Avoid areas under roofs.
  • Screw plywood over windows or use tape to reduce shattering.
  • Verify location and procedures for shutting off water, gas, and electricity.
  • Wrap shelves, cabinets, and other storage units in heavy plastic sealed with waterproof tape.
  • Move outdoor objects indoors or secure in place.
  • Take with you lists of staff and institutional and public officials; insurance and financial data; inventory; emergency plan; and supply list.
  • Make preliminary contact with service providers for generators, freezers, drying or freeze-drying services, and refrigerated trucking.
  • Appoint a staff contact to give instructions on returning to work.

Prepare Now!
Hurricanes can be very destructive. Even if you are not in the direct path of a storm, there is danger from flooding. The National Weather Service is predicting Irene to become a larger-than-average hurricane. Here are some timely questions for your institution:

  • Have we established a telephone tree for staff contacts?
  • Do we know the first responders in our community?
  • Is our disaster plan up to date? Our insurance coverage? Our inventory?
  • Have we established priorities for salvaging our collections?
  • Do we have contacts at salvage firms? Have we stocked emergency supplies?
  • Do we know what preservation resources are available in our area?

Since 1995, the Heritage Emergency National Task Force has been working to help cultural institutions safeguard their collections. Sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Heritage Preservation, Inc., the Task Force is a partnership of 41 national organizations and federal agencies. For more hurricane resources, please visit www.heritageemergency.org.


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