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An Ounce of Prevention…

November 8, 2018

Written by Anna Goodwin, Collections Manager at Maryhill Museum of Art

Maryhill fire image

Milepost 90 Fire near Maryhill Museum of Art in the Columbia River Gorge, 2018

Every museum should have an up-to-date emergency preparedness plan. The importance of this is especially relevant given the recent museum fire close to home in Aberdeen, Washington, as well as abroad at the National Museum of Brazil. Here at Maryhill Museum of Art, we recently revisited our plan and made some significant changes.

Working with a risk assessor, we determined that our plan was cumbersome and lacking critical information for managing human assets during a crisis. This led us to create a new document which we named our Emergencies Resource Guide. This guide is a concise, easily accessible book that personnel use to familiarize themselves with our procedures in advance, and draw upon quickly in an emergency situation. It is laminated and bound, and has tabs for each emergency.

 

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From the beginning, it was clear that having a fresh, outside perspective was critical. Previously, our plan focused heavily on our collections, and less on staff and visitors. We also needed to add several new emergency procedures, including: Lost Child/Parent, Lock Down/Out, Active Shooter, and Armed Person. This whole process involved a multitude of revisions among key staff, and a review with our regular emergency duty officers. We also sent the plan to our local Sheriff’s office for feedback. Once a final draft was compiled, we presented it to our staff at the annual orientation.

We learned several lessons during this process.  Most importantly, a plan should be something that will be carried out by the assigned staff. If the procedure is unrealistic or if a staff person is uncomfortable with performing the duties, adjustments must be made. It is also essential to review the plan regularly. Our plan had not been updated in almost ten years when we revised it in 2015, and we still had many more changes with the latest iteration. Another critical detail is to ensure that all of the equipment needed is accessible, such as flashlights and clean-up kits.

Ultimately, this process allowed us to examine closely our procedures for addressing emergencies. By doing so, we were better able to equip our staff to respond in an emergency situation, and feel confident in that. Though we cannot predict when a crisis may occur or what the conditions will be, having a plan sets an institution up for timely and effective management of a situation. And it provides invaluable peace of mind, so we can continue to protect our most valued cultural treasures.

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