JAIC , Volume 39, Number 1, Article 13 (pp. to )
JAIC online
Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC , Volume 39, Number 1, Article 13 (pp. to )


STEPHANIE WATKINS, & Chinese proverb


The goal of emergency and disaster preparedness programs is to protect people and property from damage. The extensive flooding in 1993 in the midwestern United States underlined the need for accurate preparedness and recovery information, including information on the care and recovery of historic and cultural property. For example, one library in the Midwest gave citizens the poor advice to insert cornstarch into their wet books and close them until dry. While various cultural institutions such as the National Institute for Conservation and the National Park Service made information available during the summer of 1993, the information often did not reach those in need. More flooding in 1995 reinforced the need for an emergency and disaster preparedness training program for the protection of historic and cultural material.

Founded in 1979, FEMA states that its mission is “to reduce loss of life and property and protect our nation's critical infrastructure from all types of hazards through a comprehensive, risk-based, emergency management program of mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery” (FEMA website, www.fema.gov 1999). As part of the nation's emergency management system, FEMA has developed a training program to instruct people from a wide variety of educational and social backgrounds in preparedness and recovery operations. In addition, FEMA's independent study courses and broadcasts over its Emergency Education Network (EENET) are offered free to the public.

While emergency personnel are familiar with the language and concepts of preparedness and recovery, they are unfamiliar with conservation and preservation procedures developed to safeguard valuable materials before and during recovery efforts. The FEMA training program can establish a dialogue between conservators and emergency personnel by informing and educating members from each profession. Participation in FEMA-type emergency response training introduces conservators to governmental, legal, and medical motivations, priorities, responsibilities, and restrictions during an emergency event. Sharing of knowledge can lead to solutions that meet mutual goals.