How to Build an Emergency Plans for Museums: a Getty Guide


The Getty Conservation Institute has published on its website the “Building an Emergency Plan”, which is the result of a GCI project that began in 1995 as a proposed series of training workshops to follow the 1992 workshop.

The text discusses the origin and development of a project called “Building an Emergency Plan,” initiated in 1995 as part of the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI). The project aimed to provide a clear, step-by-step guide for developing emergency plans tailored to the specific needs of museums and cultural institutions. The publication walks users through their responsibilities in the planning process. Additional input came from interviews with five experienced advisers, including Barbara Roberts, Gail Joice, and Alissandra Cummins, who shared their expertise in emergency preparedness and response within the cultural community. The summary highlights the diverse experiences of these advisers, ranging from hazard mitigation consulting to developing and implementing emergency plans at various museums.

In the process of identifying written material to support these activities, the Authors recognized the lack of a clear, step-by-step guide to developing emergency plans tailored to meet the specific needs of museums and other cultural institutions. With that realization, the efforts have been focused on creating a publication that would fill this need. Among the main topics of the Guide there are:

  • Emergency Preparedness and Response Planning
  • Role of the Director
  • Role of the Emergency Preparedness Manager and the Emergency Preparedness Committee
  • Role of the Emergency Preparedness Manager and the Emergency Preparedness Committee
  • Communications
  • Training
  • Buildings and Maintenance Team
  • Vulnerability and Asset Analysis

The guide follows a highly practical structure.

In Chapter 1, it introduces the general requirements of an emergency plan, outlines the advantages of an emergency preparedness and response program, and examines four case studies of museums that have developed and refined plans following actual emergencies or drills. This chapter delves into the reality of emergencies, emphasizing the threats they pose not only to institutions but also to individuals such as yourself, your staff, and visitors. Insights and advice are shared by administrators with firsthand emergency experience, either initiating preparedness and response programs or recognizing the need and developing such programs, often drawing on the experiences of others.

In Chapter 2 provides an overview of the director’s responsibilities in the program. It covers the roles of the emergency preparedness manager (EPM), the emergency preparedness committee (EPC), the emergency response coordinator (ERC), and the departmental planning teams. The chapter outlines the tasks that staff must undertake to establish an effective emergency preparedness and response program, suggesting cost-effective measures to immediately mitigate institutional risks. Depending on your institution’s size, further involvement in the planning process beyond the chapter’s outlined tasks may be desired. In such cases, it is recommended to also explore the chapters in Part II, specifically designed for use by the EPM and the EPC.

The guide, in conclusion, appears to stimulate to draw inspiration from other institutions.
When developing the facility’s emergency plan, it proves beneficial to study the plans implemented by other organizations. The case studies defined, narrate the experiences of four museums with existing emergency preparedness and response programs: the Barbados Museum and Historical Society, the Museo de Arte Popular Americano, the Mystic Seaport Museum, and the Seattle Art Museum. They elucidate the process they followed and the reasons behind their decision to do so.

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