Building an Emergency: Museums and Other Cultural Institutions Planning and Management

The experience of the damages that museums and cultural institutions in general have suffered from fire or other sudden events shows that a fundamental role in the mitigation of the damage is linked to the management of the emergency and, therefore, also to its preparation.

The training of the teams and their building are one of the most important aspects to take care of, in order to integrate the safety gaps that, especially in historic buildings, the design fails to completely resolve.

Some of the most significant documents published on this topic are listed below

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.

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.

the image shows the cover page of the guide
The “Building an Emergency Plan: A Guide for Museums and Other Cultural Institutions”, published by the Getty Conservation Institutions” is ” designed to guide an institution and its staff through the process of developing a team-based emergency preparedness and response program, which results in the creation of an emergency preparedness and response plan”

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 Analysi

Another report compiled on behalf of the Riksantikvaren the Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage (RNDCH) and Historic Scotland, provides an overview examination of available firefighting equipment and techniques for museum staff to use in the early stages of a fire.

The Manual Fire Extinguishing Equipment for Protection of Heritage provides ” an overview ex- amination of available firefighting equipment and techniques for museum staff to use in the early stages of a fire”.


Six categories of hand held extinguishers, three techniques for fighting fire without extinguishers and nine automatic small extinguishers for use in museums, galleries or historical buildings have been evaluated in terms of ease of use, extinguishing efficiency, secondary damage, maintenance and cost. Results from a series of tests on such equipment are included. Thirteen sample artefact materials were subjected to hot smoke and to six different extinguishing media.
Reference samples were compared to those subjected to smoke only and those
subjected to both smoke and extinguishing methods. The test research was commissioned by the Norwegian Archive, Library and Museum Authority (ABM, formerly NMU) and RNDCH, and carried out by COWI AS in cooperation with the The Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU).

ManualFireExtinguishingEquipment

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