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New Guide Helps Cultural Institutions Cope When Disaster Strikes

Every year, hundreds of museums, libraries, archives, and historic sites across the country experience emergencies large and small. In most cases, staff and volunteers are unprepared. The new Field Guide to Emergency Response explains clearly and simply the steps to take in the first few hours of a disaster, enabling even those with no prior training to save collections without endangering themselves. It is the first resource for collections to combine a handy reference guide with video demonstrations.

All Heritage Preservation members will receive a free copy of the Field Guide when it is released on August 1, 2006.

The Field Guide to Emergency Response distills the expertise of conservation professionals who have responded to disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and the recent flooding in the Northeast. Its interactive nature makes it unique. In addition to a readily understandable handbook, a companion DVD illustrates salvage techniques for typical problems like mud, mold, and soot. The DVD can be used on-site in a laptop or vehicle player, as well as for preparedness training. Also included are information panels that can be customized before disaster strikes, as well as helpful checklists such as a Disaster Supplies Shopping List organized by type of store.

“The Heritage Health Index found that 80 percent of cultural institutions lack an emergency plan with staff trained to carry it out,” said Heritage Preservation President Lawrence Reger. “The Field Guide to Emergency Response will help those institutions get through an emergency and then better prepare for the next one.”

The National Endowment for the Humanities funded the development of the Field Guide and the distribution of 5,000 free copies to nonprofit institutions in early August, before the peak of hurricane season. NEH Chairman Bruce Cole noted that small institutions in Gulf Coast states will be among the primary beneficiaries of the complimentary distribution. He added, “The Field Guide to Emergency Response is a significant and timely new tool for educators, archivists, and curators. Books, records, manuscripts, art, and cultural artifacts remain at risk from emergencies. For institutions with important collections, the Field Guide provides staff with information to protect treasures under their care.”

The Field Guide to Emergency Response follows Heritage Preservation’s successful Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel, which has become the gold standard for practical salvage advice for collections. The handy slide chart is found in more than 40 countries and has been translated into six languages. Both publications were produced in support of the Heritage Emergency National Task Force, which Heritage Preservation co-sponsors with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. 

The Field Guide has already won fans among early reviewers: "Every museum administrator should have a Field Guide handy at all times," said Jack Nokes, Executive Director, Texas Association of Museums. Randy Silverman, Preservation Librarian, University of Utah Marriott Library, said, "This straightforward primer is an invaluable tool for emergency planners and responders, small collecting institutions, and the public. The Field Guide is a real life saver!"

The Field Guide is available for $29.95 ($24.95 for Heritage Preservation members); it can be purchased with the Wheel for a special price of $34.95 ($27.95 for Heritage Preservation members). Both are available at Heritage Preservation’s secure online Bookstore or by calling toll-free 888-388-6789.