FEMA describes “mitigation” as the "effort to reduce loss of life and property by lessening the impact of disasters." In order for mitigation to be effective, institutions should take action now—before the next disaster—to reduce loss or risk to collections later (analyze risk, reduce risk, and insure against risk).

  • Identify Potential Threats and Hazards: Protect internal interests by identifying potential hazards to building sites and collections.

  • Perform Risk and Disaster Assessments: Perform credible risk assessments using scientifically valid and widely used risk assessment techniques. A risk assessment, whether detailed or broad, is a tool to aid in prioritizing resources for preserving the collection.

  • Analyze and Incorporate Findings: Incorporate risk, disaster, and hazard assessments into the Emergency Planning process.


Past Webinars

Sample Forms, Templates and Documents

4 Key Points for Risk Management

DHPS|NY - Risk Assessment Webinar for Collecting Institutions

AIC - Risk Assessment Webinar


According to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, an Emergency Preparedness Plan establishes arrangements in advance to enable timely, effective, and appropriate responses to hazardous events or emerging disaster situations. It provides the overall strategy for minimizing the impact of an emergency, describes the organization and its collections, and clearly defines staff roles in varying emergency situations. An emergency plan will only be effective if your staff understand the plan and have the resources to implement it.

This includes activities such as:

  • Create A Contact List: Creates a chain of command and ensures that the authority to make decisions concerning collections can be done during off-hours

  • Create An Inventory and Priority List of Collections: Include types of collections, access restrictions and locations and then share this information with first responders

  • Create An Equipment and Supply Cache: Have at least a basic emergency supply kit available on-site - e.g. plastic sheeting, paper towels, nitrile gloves, masks

  • Identify Alternate Collection Storage or Triage Locations: Have a safe alternate place to take collections to remove them from further potential harm

  • Develop A List of Emergency Vendors: Have contracts and priority list information in place prior to an event or incident to expedite recovery (this can include mutual aid agreements between institutions)

  • Share and Practice the Emergency Plan: Every staff member should know the institution's emergency procedures and understand their role in implementing them


Sample Forms and Documents (coming soon)

Prepare Your Building & Collections

Webinar: Working with Emergency Responders

ARCS - Planning for the Unexpected Webinar


First and foremost, personal safety is more important than any collection. No one should be allowed into an affected area until emergency service personnel have declared the space to be safe. This may take time. Use this time to revisit your institution's emergency plan, contact and assemble your response team, and begin plans for your salvage efforts.

***Special Note from the American Institute for Conservation***

Even after the building is deemed safe to enter, you still have to consider the following hazards:

  • Exposed hazardous materials such as:

    • asbestos from insulation, and other building materials

    • polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) found in some transformers and in old fluorescent light bulbs

    • lead from lead paints

    • mercury and mercury vapor from fluorescent lights

    • broken glass, nails and other debris.

Beyond building issues, the collections themselves may also be hazardous. Zoological collections may contain residues of old pesticides including heavy metals such as arsenic and mercuric compounds, or other pesticides like DDT, paradichlorobenzene, or naphthalene. Specimens themselves may be stored in formaldehyde, ethanol, and/or isopropanol.

In the case of tropical storms and flooding, the flood waters may also have left hazardous residues such as sewage or heavy metals.

AIC Response Suggestions:

  • Initial Damage Assessments (Document and Photograph) - It is important to take the time to document the emergency from the beginning. Photographic and written accounts will help to capture information that may otherwise be forgotten in the rush to salvage your collection. Incident records will not only help you learn from the event, but also provide needed documentation for questions of liability and insurance. The initial damage assessment phase begins as soon as access to the site of the incident is granted. Damage assessment documentation should capture the broad picture quickly, without getting caught up in details.

  • Incident Reports - Incident reports will help chronicle the response and salvage efforts, in addition to outlining damages to the building and collection. An incident record can be as simple as notes on a legal pad, to forms specific to your incident's needs.

  • Salvage Priorities - Salvage priorities may vary, but include vital institutional documents, items on loan, the unique and valuable objects previously listed on the priority list, fragile objects or those made from vulnerable materials.


Past Webinars

Sample Forms and Documents (coming soon)

Webinar: Response for Archives

National Park Service - Response and Recovery


It is important to know that the recovery process may take time. The goal is to stabilize the collection and avoid or reduce future risk. This may include: building repairs or renovations, conservation of the collection, or applications for grants or relief funding to support recovery efforts. Due to the wide scope of variables for each event, it is important to speak with a conservator or other specialist about the best ways to address each individual incident.


Sample Forms and Documents (coming soon)

Salvaging Flood Damaged Materials

Galveston Historical Foundation - Rescuing Textiles After a Flood

AIC - Soot and Ash Removal

Salvage Techniques

Galveston Historical Foundation - Rescuing Heirloom Furniture After Flood

Galveston Historical Foundation - Rescuing Heirloom Books After Flood

Galveston Historical Foundation - Rescuing Heirloom Photo Recovery

Health & Safety

Nothing is worth the risk of injury or exposure. According to OSHA, the topic of occupational health and safety refers to programs, guidelines and procedures that protect the safety, welfare and health of any person engaged in work or employment. For cultural institutions, having a solid understanding of your institution's risks and hazards will allow you to better communicate your emergency plans to employees, management, and board members and create a safe working environment for staff, researchers, volunteers and the general public.


Sample Forms and Documents (coming soon)

ARCS: PPE for Collection Emergencies

C2C: Identifying and Managing Hazardous Materials In Museum Collections

These recommendations are intended as guidance only. TX-CERA and FAIC assume no responsibility or liability for treatment of damaged objects.