Task Force April 2009 Meeting

Members of the Heritage Emergency National Task Force convened in Washington, DC, on April 17, 2009. The meeting began with a special presentation from Richard Kermond, Chief of Operational Planning at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). He reminded Task Force members that FEMA is "always open for business," preparing and responding to a continuous cycle of disaster seasons. He noted that since Hurricane Katrina, the agency has become more proactive – closely monitoring potential events, staying in contact with states, and bringing resources when and where they are needed.

Kermond also reported on the flooding in the Upper Midwest. This was a huge threat, but advanced flood gauge systems and large numbers of volunteers allowed for effective levee construction to protect major city centers. Flood levels also rose slowly because of freezing conditions. Federal resources provided to the affected states will remain in the region for a time but can be shifted as needed to other parts of the Midwest.

Frank Adinolfe, Senior Loan Officer with the Small Business Administration (SBA) announced two developments affecting cultural institutions and organizations. SBA economic injury loans are now available to nonprofits, and loan limits have been raised to $2 million for both physical and economic injury loans. The loans cover insured and uninsured losses, and applicants do not have to be in an area with a Presidential disaster declaration. The SBA has also introduced a new electronic loan application; see

Jane Yagley from the Department of the Interior serves as the new National Coordinator of Emergency Support Function (ESF) #11 of the National Response Framework. EFS #11 covers agriculture and natural and cultural resources. Yagley outlined how the federal partners provide information and support to FEMA. She noted that the Heritage Emergency National Task Force, now an official resource for ESF #11, supplied helpful information about recent preparedness efforts in the Upper Midwest.

Program Updates

Task Force members gave updates on current and in-development emergency planning and response initiatives. Highlights are below with links to additional information.

The meeting concluded with a general discussion on coordinating Task Force efforts after major events. Members agreed that the lessons learned from Katrina have been applied to many planning and response efforts. Participants reviewed the current protocol that Heritage Preservation undertakes when a regional disaster threatens. The steps include (1) monitoring news reports; (2) updating the “Information on Major Disasters” Web page and online reporting tool; (3) calling key contacts in affected areas; (4) briefing the ESF #11 Coordinator; (5) notifying state agency and association contacts about available resources; and (6) as appropriate, convening a conference call of Task Force members and state contacts. Heritage Preservation also provides information to local media outlets on saving family treasures, once citizens are allowed to return to their homes.

This system appeared to work well during the 2008 Midwest flooding, but there are still improvements to be made in gathering status reports and making information resources available. Cultural institutions and sites may be isolated when telephone service and electricity fails. Participants explored the possibilities of current social media technologies. Since the Task Force Web site ( seemed to be functioning adequately as a clearinghouse, all Task Force members were urged to collect status updates through state associations or agencies and post them on the reporting site. It was also suggested that continuing reports on the recovery phase would be helpful.

There were few confirmed reports of damage to cultural heritage from the recent earthquake in Italy. The situation at the state archives was less severe than expected, and records were being moved out of harm’s way. It was anticipated that more news will become available when heritage assessment teams are deployed.