Disaster Preparedness & Emergency Response Resources for Museum Professionals

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Amidst a deadly heat wave on Wednesday, June 30, a rapid and devastating wildfire swept through the historic village of Lytton in the interior of British Columbia. The little town of only 250 people sustained structural damage, but 90% was destroyed including the center of town, the Lytton Museum and Archives, and the Chinese History Museum.

By Friday night, both museums had completely burned down. The Chinese History Museum lost all 1,600 of its artifacts documenting early Chinese Canadians in B.C. To support the Lytton museums in rebuilding their collections and facilities, please make a donation here.

The Lytton fire is just one of hundreds of active wildfires across the Canadian province; and back in the United States, California has already been scorched by a number of wildfires, far exceeding the totals for the same period in 2020.

With the increasing frequency and intensity of wildfires (not to mention hurricanes and other natural disasters), it is becoming imperative, more than ever before, for museums to have an updated, comprehensive disaster preparedness and emergency response plan to help ensure the safety of their staff, minimize risk, and preserve their structures and facilities.

Below, you will find a list of useful resources to help you become more knowledgeable around natural disasters, and to help your institution become more prepared and develop or update an existing Emergency Response Plan.


Educational Resources

Learn about fire ecology with the San Diego Natural History Museum

Are museums safe from natural disasters? – Minneapolis Institute of Art

California Wildfire Safety Guide – Cutter Law

Natural Disasters and Severe Weather – CDC


Disaster Preparedness & Recovery Resources

Disaster Response and Salvage Resources – Museum SOS (an AMNH website)

Disaster Response and Recovery Resources – Minnesota Historical Society

Emergency Management Resources – Northeast Document Conservation Center

Emergency Preparedness – Smithsonian Institution Archives

Disaster Resources for Children’s Museums to Share with Families – Association of Children’s Museums Blog

How Libraries Can Prepare for Natural Disasters and Preserve Community History – Syracuse University

Facility Agility: Planning for Facility Emergencies – Nonprofit Risk Management Center

Facilities and Risk Management Standards – American Alliance of Museums


Building an Emergency Response Plan

Guidelines for Disaster Preparedness in Museums (downloadable PDF) – ICOM

Building an Emergency Plan: A Guide for Museums and Other Cultural Institutions (downloadable PDF) – The Getty

Developing a Disaster Preparedness/Emergency Response Plan – American Alliance of Museums

Plans and Resources for Natural Disasters – Sustaining Places

Are You Prepared: A Guide to Emergency Planning (downloadable PDF) – Nebraska Museums Association

Emergency Plan for Collections – American Museum of Natural History

Worksheet for Outlining an Emergency Response Plan (downloadable PDF) – Northeast Document Conservation Center



Disaster Response & Assistance

American Institute for Conservation's National Heritage Responders 202-661-8068

California Preservation Program – Disaster Assistance 888-905-7737 (emergency response hotline)

Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts 215-545-0613

Balboa Art Conservation Center 619-236-9702

BELFOR (water/smoke damage mitigation service)
800-856-3333 (24/7 Emergency Hotline)
Hayward office: 510-785-3473 / 24/7 Emergency Number: 888-543-3473
Los Angeles office: 714-632-7685 / 24/7 Emergency Number: 800-421-4112
San Diego office: 858-847-9886 / 24/7 Emergency Number: 866-421-4144

Polygon (water/smoke damage mitigation service) 800-I-CAN-DRY (422-6379)


Do you have emergency preparedness resources you'd like to add?

Please share with us at communications@westmuse.org.

These resources are subject to change and will be updated as new information becomes available.

We're all in this together. #StayHealthy #StaySafe #TogetherButSafelyApart


Written by Jessica Noyes, Communications Coordinator, WMA