Category Archives: fire

Pros & Cons of Fire Recovery Workshops

This week our C2C staff is in Louisville Kentucky for the AASLH conference.  We’ll be discussing one of the big pushes of the CREST grant project—producing fire recovery workshops across the state. We hope to encourage those involved in coordinating professional development workshops in other states to consider whether hands-on fire recovery workshops would be useful to the groups they serve. This type of workshop is fairly unique in that we have partnered with a different fire station or training center to stage a controlled burn of a mock museum that we set up for each one. We’ve done 6 of these and covered the state fairly well geographically. They have all been different in terms of levels of damage to materials and the firefighting staff and procedures involved in each controlled burn. We’ve learned many lessons about working with the first responders, as well as the way materials react to fire, and recovery methods. We want to guide others from around the country to R&D—rip off and duplicate—what we’ve accomplished here in NC.

We’ll be sharing with those who join us the handouts we’ve developed for our participants as well as a supply list for the workshop and pointers for setting up the controlled burn. We’ve also identified some pros and cons for producing this type of workshop to help generate discussion for each attendee (and our blog readers) about whether this would be a viable training in their own areas.

  • Pro: Fire recovery workshops have been a useful hook into increasing disaster preparedness. The off-site, hands-on element is a more exciting topic than disaster planning and appeals to a wider range of participants. These workshops have also functioned as recruiting tools for both regional and statewide response teams here in NC.
  • poolNoodleMount2Con: They’re a lot of work! Controlled burns require regular rounds of accumulating and storing “expendifacts.” We don’t just stockpile junk but rather try to amass a range of materials (and proportions of them) found in typical historical museum collections. Multiples of the same thing are especially useful to test the protective qualities of various storage materials. Tagging and creating storage mounts, as well as taking photos of each object for an inventory, are labor intensive processes. In the final stages of preparation, the heavy lifting kicks in with loading, unloading, and reloading the cargo van.
  • Pro: The workshops have built bridges to emergency responders. By meeting the firefighter in charge of the controlled burn during the workshop, each participant has a contact in their regions. The firefighters we worked with first taught us about pre-plans and we’ve been able to spread the word about this key preparedness step as we travel around the state. Additionally, the triage tags we use for artifact recovery are modeled after FEMA’s Community Emergency Response Team triage tags for human victims. By using a similar system, we’ve allowed the firefighters to gain a quick understanding of our goals.
  • Con: Preparations for these workshops requires a great deal of staff time. You need months (and quite a bit of storage space) to accumulate the stuff you’ll burn. If an inventory is part of the workshop (and it has been for ours), the documentation takes roughly a week of full-time work. Another week is necessary for creating storage mounts, packing boxes, loading, and set-up.
  • Pro: These workshops have been a useful deaccessioning outlet for institutions around the state (and even beyond, in one case). 7 museums/ libraries have given us items to burn that could not be sold at auction.
  • TextilesPostburnCon: The controlled burns require regular buying and wasting of supplies. In addition to buying expendifacts from thrift stores and yard sales, storage supplies get used up regularly. Metal shelving has been the toughest supply to replenish cheaply. Tyvek and muslin garment covers and padded hangers need to be re-created before each burn.
  • Pro: Ultimately, these workshops have been effective as active learning events. Participants have worked with key concepts such as the Incident Command System, practiced triage and fire recovery steps for a variety of materials, and witnessed the reactions of various storage materials to fire.

Do you think it would be worth trying one of these workshops in your own area? Please get in touch, if you’d like more information. We’re happy to share!


Knox-Box News

courtesy, Thomas Wolfe Memorial State Historic Site

courtesy, Thomas Wolfe Memorial State Historic Site

We’ve written about the importance of Knox-Boxes on this blog before and stressed the simplicity and effectiveness of this disaster preparedness step. Contact your local fire department to order and install a Knox-Box. A Knox-Box is a small, wall-mounted safe that holds building keys for fire departments and emergency medical services (and sometimes police) to retrieve in emergency situations. Local fire departments hold master keys to all boxes in their response area so that they can enter a building quickly, without having to force entry. Important information for cultural heritage institutions to stash in their Knox-Boxes include:

  • emergency contact list
  • floor plans showing utility cut-offs
  • list of 5-10 priority artifacts with locations

Several participants in our C2C programs have made progress recently with their Knox-Box implementations. Their news can help motivate other cultural heritage institutions to schedule those regular check-ups with fire fighters. At last month’s Triad Area Cultural Resources Emergency Network (ACREN) meeting, Dale Pennington, Director of Korner’s Folly in Kernersville reported that a regular fire inspection of her institution prompted her to order a Knox-Box for the site and it cost about $250. Firefighters decided that, rather than drill into the historic structure for installation, it would be better to insert the site’s Knox-Box into a metal pole coming out of the ground. This allows them easy access to crucial, site-specific information without compromising the fabric of the unique building.

courtesy, High Point Museum

courtesy, High Point Museum

The High Point Museum already had a Knox-Box before their MayDay preparations motivated them to schedule a pre-plan with their fire department. During the tour of their institution, staff discussed the importance of the museum’s artifact collection and walked firefighters through the storage areas. This collaboration helped firefighters revise the emergency plan for the building and they decided to install a 2nd Knox-Box at the back of the building for quicker access to collections storage. At the end of the pre-plan process, staff members Marian Inabinett and Corinne Midgett enjoyed posing for a group shot with their local firefighters (at right).

Does your institution have a Knox-Box? If not, consider doing contacting your local fire department to begin the ordering process. This small step could be a giant leap for your site’s disaster preparedness.

Reminders from Recovery

Last week C2C conducted our 6th and final fire recovery workshop at the Fayetteville Fire Training Center. Overall, the process of setting up and burning the mock museum replicated that of earlier workshops. Our “artifacts” experienced a range of damage from a level of charring that would lead to deaccession to a light level of soot and ash to the absorption of smoky odors. The scenario gave our staff and participants a rare opportunity to witness the protective powers of various storage materials and the effectiveness of simple recovery treatments.

This event offered reminders of 3 preservation techniques we’ve discussed before, both in workshops and in this blog.

  1. ???????????????????????????????Textile interleaving helps protect artifacts. The vast majority of disasters involve water. Even fires usually end with the activation of sprinkler systems or water hoses. Although a fire’s intense heat often evaporates any water involved very quickly, bleeding dyes and sooty tide lines can remain. Participants in our “Collections Care Basics” workshops get to practice rolling textiles for storage. They are careful to interleave the object with acid-free tissue during each revolution and cover the rolled fabric with muslin, Tyvek, reemay, or tissue. In this case (shown above) the muslin cover appeared to protect the rolled textile inside but once opened, water damage became apparent. Dyes bled onto the muslin and interleaving tissue, which mitigated the damage from one layer of the textile to the next.
  2. board box after fire

    board box after fire

    plastic box after fire

    plastic box after fire

    Plastic storage boxes are a protective option—even in a fire. We previously postulated the melting fate of plastic boxes in fires as disadvantage of that storage option. However, in this fire, the plastic box protected its contents similarly to the board box. We had placed a like array of materials (8 objects) in each of 4 boxes—2 plastic, 2 board. One plastic and one board box survived well on a lower shelf. Both the plastic and the board box on a top shelf experienced destructive heat. The fire melted the plastic and caused the board to char and collapse. In both boxes most materials suffered damage but could be recovered. Once cooled, melted plastic could be pried off the surviving objects fairly easily and board dividers and tissue inside the box protected much of the contents.

  1. Gonzo is visible in the trashcan beneath the object tray.

    Gonzo is visible in the trashcan beneath the object tray.

    Deodorization chambers are effective as a recovery technique. Paper, textile, and wooden objects absorb smoky odors easily. The deodorization chamber we have recommended previously worked really well for the textile items involved in this fire. We placed two infant clothing items in the chamber overnight and all traces of odor disappeared. The Gonzo product needed recharging in the sun before the next session but then resumed absorbing effectively and deodorized two dresses that had been on the garment rack during the blaze.

Although every disaster is different, we learn lessons after each that help us mitigate risks and be better prepared. What lessons have disasters taught you?

Disaster Gypsies

???????????????????????????????Just before Thanksgiving 2014, the Historic Jamestown Society’s Mendenhall Plantation sustained a disaster. Arsonists used bricks and stones to break through windows of the 1817 Lindsay House, squirted lighter fluid on the floor, and set fire. Fortunately for this historic landmark, damage was minimal. The fire burned out floorboards in two places and left sooty residue and smoky odors. Despite the contained area of damage, the mostly volunteer staff had to struggle with a recovery challenge they never expected—disaster gypsies.  The director, the only paid staff member of the site, was out of town when the arson occurred and a long-time volunteer board member had to respond to the situation. Disaster response contractors quickly descended upon her and, panicked and disoriented on a cold night, she had trouble keeping them at bay.

Disaster gypsies are irresponsible contractors who show up immediately after a disaster, while emergency responders are often still on site, and promise quick fixes to panicky staff (or inhabitants). They may assure you that if you pay up front, your insurance will reimburse you. Don’t let soothing tones and comforting phrases fool you—these are salespeople out to prey on misfortune. They may promise rapid solutions such as quick drying after floods or chemical washes after fires that will ultimately damage historic structures more than the initial disaster event.  Don’t let these ready-at-hand “advisors” rush you. The emergency responders will stabilize the situation and you will have time to sort repair bids out to your institution’s best advantage.

In addition to being forewarned about disaster gypsies remember these tips for dealing with disaster recovery contractors:

  • Always call your insurance agent–before agreeing to any recovery service–to find out coverage specifics.
  • Be sure the company is IICRC credentialed (Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoring Certification).
  • Check Better Business Bureau reports on the local franchise owner.
  • Take time to gather and compare multiple bids—3 is a good benchmark number.

???????????????????????????????The Mendenhall Plantation’s staff’s instincts to hesitate on decision-making served their site well and, for the most part, they avoided signing up with the wrong companies for questionable services. Good restoration companies with knowledgeable contractors do exist. If you can identify them in advance, you’ll be able to take a giant leap toward preparedness.

Mendenhall’s director and 3 board members shared tales of their recent trials and tribulations at a January gathering of cultural heritage practitioners in the Triad region. [Read more about that meeting here.] Above left, Director Shawn Rogers gave meeting participants a tour of the damaged building. (Note the broken and boarded window behind him.) In addition to the group learning an important preparedness lesson from the Mendenhall experience, the arson event catalyzed interest in forming a regional response network. Twenty folks have agreed to participate so far and the group looks forward to future expansion.

Controlled Burn Surprises

garment storage pre-burn showing various covering materials

G'boroBurnBldgLast week C2C held our 5th Fire Recovery Workshop. We’ve coordinated these across the state—2 on the coast, one in the mountains, one in the Triangle, and this recent one in Greensboro. Past participants and long-time followers of this blog will recall that within days before these workshops our C2C team works with firefighters to conduct a controlled burn. Our staff brings shelves and a variety of objects, including metals, ceramics, wood, books, textiles, papers, and photographs. We stage some in containers and others loose on shelves or in an “exhibit” area so that participants can gauge the effectiveness of various storage materials.

Firefighters burn the mock “museum” in a fire training facility. Most of these are masonry structures with special tiles designed to absorb the heat of the fire. Consequently, after our first 3 controlled burns we were somewhat disappointed that many of the objects survived un-charred with a film of soot and a smoke odor. (We had hoped for a better range of damage for the recovery learning opportunity.) Our 4th training center was different. It was a large corrugated iron building and the objects experienced a range of damage, with those on top shelves faring much worse than those stored at lower levels.

garment storage post-burn

garment storage post-burn

taggingWorking with a masonry building once again in Greensboro, we stressed to the firefighters that we wanted objects damaged…and they delivered. They selected the basement level of their training facility for the most intense fire. Indeed, lower ceilings kept the fire near the objects’ levels. When we first entered the burn building it looked as if there would be little for our participants to recover at all. However, some containers, though destroyed, protected enough of the objects that our participants could still practice triage and treatment techniques.

Surprises and lessons from our 5th controlled burn:

  • Exhibit2Postburn
    Acrylic hoods can melt, though the artifacts inside may be okay.
  • Fire moves up, but it also moves toward any vent; consequently our table setting was not charred.
  • Even in the most destructive fires, metals and ceramics are likely to retain their forms and may be worth conserving.

If you’ve missed the last 5 of these unique workshops and want to join in the fun, our next (and probably last) fire recovery workshop will be in Fayetteville, April 13, 2015. You can register by following this link.

Polk Kitchen Fire

This weekend the James K. Polk State Historic Site will celebrate the reopening of its visitor center as well as the 11th President’s birthday. The building’s exterior and interior have been fixed up, along with updated exhibits about Polk, who was born on November 2nd 1795 in Pineville, an NC backcounty town not far from Charlotte.

Further renovations will be necessary to the Site’s kitchen building as a result of a disaster at the site last month. On October 9th fire broke out in the roof. According to Site Manager, Scott Warren, the building dates to circa 1800, but had been moved to the site in the 1960s. Staff had outfitted the interior with period artifacts to use in kitchen demonstrations. Unfortunately, after putting out the hearth fire once the demonstration ended, a sparking ember got caught within the chimney and the old wood continued to burn inside, until a fire broke out at the attic level after staff had left the site. Firefighters responded quickly and were able to salvage the building’s lower floor. This fire, however, presented a new artifact recovery challenge–fire fighters put out the fire with suppression foam. Foam is a relatively new product/ technique in firefighting and may require an altered process for artifact recovey. In the Polk instance, however, firefighters removed all artifacts from the kitchen and attic before applying foam.

PolkFireIn this screen shot from the local news coverage, the fire suppression foam is visible coating the floor of the kitchen, after firefighters had evacuated the artifacts from the building.

But what if the foam had contact with artifacts? In addition to soot and ash damage, those involved in recovery would have to consider the effects of foam residue. It turns out that conservator-recommended recovery procedures are similar, with vacuuming first and then wet cleaning with water and a mild detergent. Soot sponging is the recommended 2nd step after vacuuming, but may not be as applicable with foam residues. When foam is involved, rinsing may be a necessary step for most artifacts, rather than a last resort, as conservators recommend in other cases.

Experts from the Bureau of Land Management offer the following advice:

Foams may hasten rusting on metal surfaces by removing protective coatings and may cause wood to flake due to swelling and contracting…[the] retardant should be washed off important structures as soon as possible. Pre-soaking, then hand-brushing with water and a mild detergent may work for sandstone or painted wood. Metals and glass may be wiped with water and a mild detergent.

Fire suppression foams are proprietary and their chemical compositions may differ. Historic Sites Curator Martha Battle Jackson was concerned about chemical residues the foam may have left behind and ways it could react with cleaning solutions staff would use in the building after the fire. Firefighters provided her with the manufacturers’ safety data sheet (MSDS) for the product they used, ThunderStorm® FC-601A 1% or 3% AR-AFFF concentrate. (download available here)

Suppression foams work by creating a film or membrane to act as a barrier, preventing the release of fuel vapor. Regardless of the fuel type, the foam cover excludes oxygen and drains the liquid composition of the membrane. Additionally, the water content of the foam produces a cooling effect. The ThunderStorm® product promises to be biodegradable and low in toxicity–reassuring information for the Polk recovery efforts.

Our hats are off to Pineville firefighters and Historic Sites’ staff for their quick and effective artifact salvage, as well as introducing us to innovations in firefighting technology. Have you encountered fire suppression foams before? Do you have any advice to share about artifact recovery after its use?

Pre-plan with Firefighters

FireAssocPatchWhen we bought our first house, it was directly across the street from a fire station.  My boys, ages 6 and 10 at the time, thought that the firefighters were the best neighbors we could have had.  Anytime the boys had friends over, it always included a visit to “the fire guys” and a display of lights, hats, sirens and such. Soon my boys knew all of them by name and by shift. Now some people might not like living across from a fire station.  However, it was great fun for us and they were the BEST neighbors. I love to bake and firefighters love to eat, so we had a great symbiotic relationship. We felt safe, secure, appreciated and were entertained by their comings and goings.  And no, they did not use the sirens at night – they were very respectful of the entire neighborhood. We were always impressed with their willingness to help anyone in the neighborhood whenever they could.  Those firefighters helped get cars started, changed tires, put luminaries out at Christmas, opened locked doors, cut trees after a storm, and displayed many other examples of their willingness to help their neighbors.

NC_Certified_Firefighter PathcSo, when I learned from the NC fire fighters we’ve done workshops with about their “pre-plan” program, I guessed the plan would be thorough and reasonable – but I did not expect it to be so incredibly easy. All it takes is one phone call to your nearest fire station (volunteer fire stations included) and they will come to your site and do a “pre-plan.”  The firefighters bring the forms, they fill out the forms, they measure, inspect, add details, and do it all for you.  They make detailed notes of priority artifacts, structure issues, storage placement and fragile items that need to be protected or handled with care.  They are especially interested in historical structures and artifacts.  Firefighters are eager to learn how to respond so that these treasures are preserved for future generations.

Do you have any of the following: antique glass in the front door or windows, stained glass windows, hand carved banisters, cemeteries, cupolas, wrought iron gates, or other special architectural or landscape features? What are the priority artifacts that need rescue in case of fire or flood?   The firefighters will mark and document all of these special areas so that when they arrive on the scene, they can react in the best way possible to save and protect our historical treasures.

One phone call is all it takes. You make the call; they come and do the work. So, how easy is that?  In addition, just for their tireless efforts, bake a cake and give it to them when they finish.

For another opportunity to discuss pre-plans, come to C2C’s next fire recovery workshop in Greensboro, where we’ll hear from battalion chiefs and other departmental leaders.

Lyn Triplett, C2C Disaster Planning Coordinator


Fire Recovery: Simple Triage and Rapid Treatment

For disaster recovery workshops, we’re following the lead of emergency responders by promoting START: simple triage and rapid treatment. However, while those professionals are focusing on human victims, our participants deal only with the much less urgent and less significant needs of artifacts.

Triagetag2Upon relocating the artifacts to a safe work area (using as limited and safe handling procedures as possible), the next step in recovering artifacts from a fire is triage. For our last workshop, we modified emergency responders’ START tags for artifacts.

  • Green: Undamaged artifacts have usually been housed securely enough to protect them from soot. After careful inspection, these can be rehoused in clean containers for a return to storage with no treatment necessary.
  • Yellow: these objects require simple treatment techniques before they can be packed up for long-term storage.

Conservators recommend a strict progressive cleaning procedure that begins with vacuuming and moves to soot sponging and then to wet-cleaning, if necessary and safe for the material. These techniques enacted quickly after the fire will guarantee the highest degree of soot removal for most objects.

  1. Air dry if necessary. Find a shady place if outside or use electric fans to promote air flow inside.
  2. Vacuum: conservators recommend vacuuming in place before relocating the object, but after a fire it is more likely that the contents of a burned structure will be removed before artifact recovery can begin. Brushes should not be used in the soot vacuuming process. If a nylon screen or old panty hose is available, it can be used to cover the nozzle only and should not be pressed against the object. If not, place a thumb on the edge of the nozzle as a bumper to space it a short distance from the object.
  3. Soot sponge: remember to use a dabbing motion, rather than rubbing, which will may grind the tiny soot particles into the object.
  4. Wet cleaning:
  • Ethanol wipe/ dab for metals, also useful on glass and high-fired ceramics
  • Squirt bottle rinse with weak detergent solution (select one with low levels of dyes and perfumes such as Palmolive free and clear.)
  • Blot with damp cotton swabs or rags
  • Avoid immersion but this may be necessary as a last resort

In addition to Heritage Preservation’s brief video, click here for the best professional guidelines we’ve found so far that are specific to soot and ash.

  • Red: objects may be packed for relocation to a conservation studio right away, or they may go through the simple treatment techniques outlined above before going into this category.
  • Black: objects that seem too damaged to recover or not enough of an institutional priority to warrant conservation costs go into the “morgue”—a holding area to await the formal deaccession process before disposal.

We’re working though this START system for artifacts in workshops and so far it’s been a useful approach. We plan to train our Cultural Resources Emergency Response Team (CREST) in its use for future actual disaster recoveries and will practice it again at our next fire recovery workshop in Greensboro.


Melting Plastic

courtesy, Frankie Hayden

shelving unit, post-burn: courtesy, Frankie Hayden

PlasticComparisonLast week our C2C team conducted our 4th fire recovery workshop. The Western Carteret Fire & EMS station executed a controlled burn of the mock museum we had previously installed in their training building. Although plastic (polypropylene) storage boxes have made it through previous controlled burns just fine, this time one completely melted. In one of our earlier burn tests, plastic boxes protected the contents as well as microchamber boxes and better than regular archival boxes. However, we have always placed them at the low or mid level of shelving areas. This time we were more deliberate about a control and test for plastic placement. We staged 4 similarly sized boxes (2 cardboard and 2 plastic) with nearly identical contents. Each contained a book, a shell, a small crocheted textile, a wooden figurine, a copper vessel, a brass vessel, a slate writing board, and a record disk. BoardBoxfromTopThe fire chief on duty estimated that the fire reached a temperature of 800 degrees Fahrenheit, somewhat hotter than past controlled burns, which were recorded at 700 degrees. The fire destroyed both the cardboard and the plastic boxes on the top shelf, although the charred cardboard retained much of its form (see right). The plastic box melted and wound up as a glob with shimmery strings dangling down. The same box on the lower shelf came through the burn intact, with a layer of soot on the outside. [See above right for a direct comparison of the two boxes that were identical before the fire.]





What about the objects the boxes contained? Most–including wood, metal, and textiles–were covered in soot and ash but could still be salvaged with much conservation work. The plastic items inside the boxes (a record disk and a frame for a small print), however,also melted. Globs of melted plastic adhered to some of the materials, but in most cases, could be pried loose. Objects in both the cardboard and the plastic boxes were not well protected from the fire on the top shelf. In contrast, the same boxes 3 shelves below protected their contents just fine from the film of soot and ash that covered all surfaces. PlasticMelt2Are plastic boxes a bad choice for disaster mitigation? No. They do offer protection from leaks and pests and on lower levels of shelving, present little additional fire risk. On upper shelves they are more likely to melt and pose a greater risk to artifacts. However, at a heat intense enough to cause melting, all artifacts will be severely damaged, regardless of container type. Melted globs of plastic will add to a salvaged object’s conservation needs. These globs may come from other objects as well as from melted polyethylene foam that is a standard shelf liner in most museum storage areas. Above is a view of the foam liner residue, which melts into a brown lacy layer, and the melted remainder of the lid and sides of the plastic box. Upcoming posts will address additional aspects of this workshop including the Incident Command System, the simple triage system we used, and rapid treatment techniques we practiced.

Disaster Reality vs. ICS Structure

Rescuing Damaged Artifacts

Rescuing damaged artifacts at a recent workshop

When I was a young college senior majoring in music education, we had to take numerous philosophy and methods of education classes the semester before we began student teaching.  Every scenario presented in those courses was touted as the greatest achievement in public education since the eraser.  The difficulty was that once I began student teaching, armed with all of the beautiful templates of how to make every child a gifted learner and devoted scholar, I promptly fell flat on my face. Why did this happen? Because every situation presented to me in those ivy covered classrooms prior to my clash with the reality of public school systems, was delivered under the ideal circumstances, with the ideal students, who had been raised by the ideal parents and funded from the magical unlimited budgets of the state and local coffers. Since then, I have always been skeptical of anything presented as the” perfect solution” that was not grounded in real life experiences.

I encountered this delicate dance again in November when C2C presented a fire recovery workshop in Buncombe County, North Carolina. There is always a compromise in teaching this sort of disaster strategy between what is laid out in the formal, rigid structure of ICS (Incident Command System) and the bureaucracy of municipalities, and what needs to happen immediately.  Archivists, conservators, museum directors, librarians and any other staff can spend significant amounts of time on the disaster plan, telephone tree, duty assignments, and practice drills, only to see it all crumble when told that the city inspector gives you ten minutes to empty the facility before he chains off the door for safety reasons.

So why do we teach the complex system of ICS?  And why do we preach the importance of inventory updates, off-site storage of the disaster plan, electronic back up and how to care for the cracked dinnerware and fragile, sooty textiles?   Why does the workshop include ICS and not just emphasize urgent, immediate rescue?

We include it because we have a responsibility to the people in charge of these museums, historic homes and historic sites to prepare them in the best way possible – not if, but WHEN – a disaster happens on their watch at their site.

Granted, in an unexpected disaster, there is the sense of urgency and immediacy to rescue collections and protect all items from further damage or loss.  If everyone just runs helter-skelter, there may end up being more damage, confusion, theft and breakage than if there is a pre-thought-out and prepared plan.  Certainly, things will not go systematically in the perfect order with the perfect professional conservators on hand to give their wisdom and expertise, but being blind-sided by a fire, flood, tornado or mold infestation, is far worse when there is no organized course of action (or structure) to implement.

If there is a large presidential (FEMA) declared disaster, the ICS structure is implemented from the local community CERT volunteers and volunteer fire and EMT rescuers up the ladder to the governor.  It is paramount that you, as a professional, at least have an understanding of where you and your facility fall in that hierarchy, how and whom to inform of your needs and how that structure will affect your collections and facilities in the recovery effort. (Both the immediate and the long-term aspect of recovery.)

We know that there is a real life energy and sense of urgency surrounding a disaster and, also, that there is a textbook response to a disaster and we know that the best possible, most productive response lies somewhere in the middle.   We will keep listening to feedback, reworking the agenda, and re-structuring the workshops, practice burns, and artifact recovery until we have balanced the two opposing forces. Our reality is that we hope this is all wasted time on our part and your part.  We desperately hope that there is never any kind of trauma or disaster at your museum, historic site or home.  However, in the chance that if – and when – it does occur, all of the advance preparation will prove valuable in preserving these pieces of history for all future generations.

We will keep providing opportunities for you to have as much training as possible.  We are not the ivy-covered walls of college, nor do we want to set anyone up for failure. However, a pre-determined response that addresses the issues of administrative, logistical, operational and planning needs (that is implemented and carried out at a disaster site) will bring order to chaos. Being prepared is the best reality training possible.  Knowing your options and having a plan will help prevents panic and additional, smaller disasters from occurring at the site. All of this will help you manage a difficult situation in trying circumstances.

Remember that NC Department of Cultural Resources is always here with (free) conservators, archivists and specialists on hand to assist immediately after and in the long-term recovery.  CREST team members will respond from across the state and a local response will begin with the *ACREN groups.

Lyn Triplett

NC Department of Cultural Resources

Disaster Preparedness Coordinator