C2C’s Controlled Burn in Buxton

C2C's Disaster Preparedness Coordinator, Matt Hunt, led the workshop. Hunt is a trained fire engineer, firefighter, emergency medical technician, and Incident Command Systems instructor.

How can we prepare workers in North Carolina’s cultural heritage institutions to recover from disasters without practice? Heritage Preservation offers several great training materials, including the Field Guide to Emergency Response and the “Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel,” but there is no substitute for real, hands-on experience. During the inevitable period of panic after a disaster, responders are able to draw from knowledge they have gained through practice much more readily than from information they have absorbed from readings or a-v materials. In order to practice response and recovery techniques, C2C developed a controlled burn exercise that functioned as a major training event—not only for those participants from North Carolina’s cultural heritage institutions, but also for firefighters on the Outer Banks.

In preparation for the workshop, C2C staff members gathered materials to burn in a staged museum setting at the Buxton Fire Department’s fire training facility on Hatteras Island. We purchased sets of shelves and a metal storage cabinet from state surplus and a variety of metal objects from thrift stores. Cast-off items (especially deaccessioned books) from NCDCR offices and elsewhere rounded out what we termed “the Burnsville Museum.” We inventoried and numbered over 120 objects for this “museum” collection. In early February we loaded the Burnsville Museum into a state cargo van and drove to the Outer Banks. The day before the workshop C2C’s Matt Hunt and NC Museum of History’s John Campbell set up the shelving units and arranged “museum” objects inside and around the casework.

On the afternoon of February 6th, 10 participants joined with C2C staff for a Fire Disaster Recovery Workshop. The event began with an overview of fire, common causes in historic buildings, and recovery techniques. Next, Martha Battle Jackson, Curator of NC Historic Sites, presented on her experiences during the aftermath of the devastating fire at the Thomas Wolfe Memorial in Asheville in 1998. After a dinner break, our group re-convened at the Buxton Fire Department, where administrators and firefighters-in-training had already gathered. For the next two hours, firefighters lit various fires in rooms adjacent to the “museum” storage areas. None of the materials we had prepared burned up in the fire, but most suffered damage from soot, ash, and/or water.

The next morning our group began to sort through the mess and practice recovery. After the triage process, teams brought items out of the dark, sooty burn facility and into the open air. Collapsible tables and tarps formed work surfaces and spaces for air drying. Participants filled out worksheets on each item as they inspected and treated it, recording accession number, condition, and any recovery activity. Our group divided into 3 teams, with Jackson and C2C staff serving administrative roles, according to Incident Command Systems protocol.

All participants practiced a variety of important recovery techniques. Andrea Gabrielof the NC Archives, Meagen Wilson of Wayne County Public Library, and Mary Ellen Riddle of Roanoke Island Festival Park document and vacuum recovered books and an oil painting. Frances Hayden of the NC Maritime Museum, and Nicolle Johnson of Wayne County P.L. blot a large ledger book with soot sponges. NCDCR’s Reid Thomas, UNC’s Jacqueline Chapman, and Old Salem’s Michele Doyle work in a shed area to rinse, interleave, and air dry sooty books.

We hope the experience gave all participants a good basis to write or revise relevant disaster plans for their institutions and to be able to initiate appropriate recovery actions if necessary. Are you interested in participating in a similar hands-on burn recovery? Stay connected with C2C! We’re hoping to schedule another in Fire Disaster Recovery workshop in Asheboro later this spring.

Our C2C team: Adrienne Berney, Matt Hunt, Michelle Vaughn, LeRae Umfleet

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About collectionsconversations

This blog will contain posts from the C2C project staff on a variety of topics related to collections care and disaster preparedness. Enjoy the posts and let us know if you would like additional information or have a topic you would like for us to address.

Posted on February 17, 2012, in cleaning, collections care, Connecting to Collections, disaster preparedness, workshops and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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