Emergency planning for collections – the Spectrum standard

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You should have a policy on how you will protect your collections in emergencies. This could either be a standalone document or part of a wider collections management policy. Either way, in deciding your policy you will most likely need to consider these questions:

  • Who is responsible for emergency planning within your museum?
  • What agreements do you have to co-operate with other museums in emergency situations?
  • How do you assess risk and what level of risk do you consider tolerable?
  • What are your priorities for mitigating the risks you have identified?
  • What risks will you insure against (or seek indemnity cover for)?
  • Who has access to the full emergency plan (particularly if it includes confidential information such as lists of the most valuable objects in your collection)?
  • Who will be trained to put the emergency plan into action?
  • What is the chain of command in an emergency (including if key people are not around)?
  • How will you test the effectiveness of the emergency plan and keep it up to date?

You should also have a written procedure that explains the steps to follow to reduce risks, and how to react to emergencies. Spectrum’s suggested procedure is a useful starting point, but however you do it, your own procedure should meet the following minimum requirements:

Minimum requirement Why this is important
You assess the risks facing your collections and information systems, and review these regularly in line with your policy. Your governing body can make informed decisions about safeguarding your objects and data.
You have multiple copies of a written emergency plan that will help you respond effectively to all foreseeable emergencies (with at least one copy safely off-site). You have clear steps to follow so you will not forget something important in a real emergency.

You do not lose your only copy of the plan in an emergency.

You always have access to up-to-date contact details for the people and organisations named in your emergency plan. You do not waste time tracking down the people you need urgently.
You have prioritised the objects you would save first in an emergency, and recorded this information in a way that can guide any rescue that may be possible. You are able to move objects to safety in a planned way that reflects their value to you.
All your staff and volunteers know, and have practised, what they should do in all of the situations covered by your emergency plan. Whoever is first on the scene can react quickly, efficiently and safely.

You are not relying on someone who happens to be on holiday when disaster strikes.


Date created: 2017

Author: Collections Trust

Publisher: Collections Trust