As repositories for so many of our national treasures, museums and heritage properties are ideally suited to teach contemporary generations the lessons gleaned from history. One of these is undoubtedly that disasters inevitably strike – be it fire, flood, theft or fatal administrative error – and preparedness is the key to rapid recovery.
It’s a lesson that such properties themselves are well advised to heed: disasters can cause major damage to valuable collections and artefacts, perhaps even resulting in their loss. Closures can also result, mostly temporary, but sometimes permanent.
All businesses need to prepare for the eventuality of a disaster, be it natural or man-made, but properties containing hosts of national treasures are especially vulnerable. While an average small business can replace its desktop PCs easily, fine art, furnishings and fabrics will require expert restoration and potentially the services of hard-to-find craftspeople.
Creating your disaster control plan
The first step to limiting the impact of disasters is to create a disaster control plan. This is a personalised document that covers four main areas: prevention, disaster planning, how you will respond to a disaster and, ultimately, how you will recover. By creating your plan, you are documenting the procedures that will ensure the fastest possible recovery while reducing the risks you face. For example, if during the plan’s creation you identify that some electrical wiring is outdated, replacing the wiring will remove much of the risk it poses.
Conducting a formal risk assessment is the first vital step. This involves identifying the risks to which your property is exposed and analysing their likelihood and potential impact. Based on the results of the risk assessment, the next step is to manage your risks – essentially, to assess what action you can take immediately to reduce your exposure to them. In most instances, the commonest risks are from fire, flooding and water ingress. Removing combustible waste materials is one simple risk management step; repairing a damaged roof slate would be another. It’s simple, common-sense stuff for the most part, but it needs to be dealt with methodically and thoroughly.
In addition to the structure of your property, consider how risks to individual exhibits and artefacts can be reduced. Maintaining a stable temperature and humidity will minimise the potential for degradation to paintings and woodwork; fragile ceramics and glass should be displayed in cabinets, but how secure are your cabinets’ footings?
Planning for the unthinkable
Should disaster strike, which items in your property are the most vital to safeguard? Creating a snatch list will help you make these decisions. A snatch list is a plan for removing the most valuable or rare items once the personal safety of staff and visitors has been ensured.
The list is just one element of your disaster response plan, which will include details of the roles individual staff will play, out-of-hours contact information, provisions for salvage and storage, and the location of an alternative base of operations should the entire property be rendered inaccessible.
Help from Ecclesiastical
Ecclesiastical has been insuring heritage properties for 125 years. Over these years, we have offered protection and guidance to a large number of museums, stately homes and heritage properties. We have also seen what can happen to such properties if things go wrong and disaster strikes. We have used this experience to create a comprehensive disaster recovery plan that will help our customers be better prepared for every eventuality. To pre-order a copy or to receive a free copy of our heritage magazine, Aspect, email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ecclesiastical’s market-leading insurance for museums and heritage buildings is available through insurance brokers. For more information, contact your broker or visit: www.ecclesiastical.com.