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Disaster Preparedness

No one wants to anticipate disasters, but proper preparation is a necessity for institutions with cultural collections. The best approach is to be proactive and to create a comprehensive disaster preparedness plan, complete with the supplies that might be necessary in the case of disaster. Be sure to include action plans to ensure the safety of personnel in a disaster as well as the safety of the collections.

The most common type of damage in the case of disasters is from water, be it from flooding, building damage, or fire control. In the event of flood or water damage in your facility, the following is recommended for paper documents*:

Documents should be air-dried flat, as individual sheets or in small piles up to ¼”. Interleave documents prior to drying and replace interleaving materials when they become damp. Do not unfold or separate individual wet sheets.

If items are too numerous for air-drying:

  1. Interleave documents, by groups or individually, with freezer or waxed paper
  2. Pack sturdy containers 90% full with interleaved documents that are supported and standing up.
  3. Freeze.

If documents cannot be dried within 48 hours, freeze them until action can be taken. Freezing stabilized collections stops mold growth, ink running, dye transfer and swelling. A sub-zero commercial freezer is best, but a home freezer will work. A refrigerated truck will also keep materials cool enough to slow mold growth.

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*Excerpt from Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel™, ©2005 Heritage Preservation, Inc.