09 May 2005

Be Prepared - Guidelines for small museums for writing a disaster preparedness plan

Be Prepared was published by the Heritage Collections Council in 2000 and is available in pdf format. It contains invaluable information for smaller institutions on assessing and planning for disasters such as training needs, assessment considerations, safety and damage checklists and templates based on established disaster management plans.

These guidelines have been produced to coordinate a national approach to caring for, and promoting access to, Australia's heritage collections. These guidelines enable the museum sector to write useful Disaster Preparedness Plans.

Disaster preparedness has been around for a long time. Preventing, preparing, responding, and recovering are in many of our everyday actions in both our homes and our community. Turning off heaters when leaving the house, house maintenance and home insurance, knowing what precious things we would grab if the house was on fire, the emergency services that respond to our disasters - all these are part of being prepared for disasters.

In the world of museums and cultural heritage, disaster preparedness has taken on a more formal role in good museum management - but the principles remain the same. That is, to protect the collection, the museum building and the people working within the museum.

Unfortunately it is still the situation that many do not have useful disaster preparedness plans in place. Some have plans that bear no resemblance to the needs of their museum, while most have no plans at all.

This guide is aimed at assisting museums in writing their own disaster preparedness plan. It is specifically written for those museums that have few (or none) trained or paid staff, and certainly no conservators. It is intended to be as practical as possible in guiding the museum through all the steps in writing a useful plan and therefore avoids much of the theory of disaster preparedness that is available.

A well-written, useful Disaster Preparedness Plan is a vital part of good museum management. The task of this guide then, is to refine the wealth of available information into a document that is straightforward, informative and easy to use. Its aim is to enable any museum to be well prepared for disasters of any size by working through this guide and producing their own plan.

The outcome should be a staff that is more informed about disasters, their consequences and how best to deal with them; and a well-written Disaster Preparedness Plan that will serve them well when that disaster really occurs, thereby ensuring a longer life for Australia's distributed national collection.

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