Disaster planning and recovery 

How can my organisation be prepared in case there is an emergency?

Christchurch Cathedral, injured by earthquake, September 1, 1888 1888, Burton Brothers studio (1867–1898), Maker unknown, Dunedin. Te Papa
Christchurch Cathedral, injured by earthquake, September 1, 1888 1888, Burton Brothers studio (1867–1898), Maker unknown, Dunedin. Te Papa
Every organisation should have an emergency plan in place. All employees and volunteers need to know what to do to protect their safety, the safety of visitors, and finally the safety of the collections.

Assess what potential risks could affect your museum. Are you located in an active earthquake zone? Does your area often experience flooding? Have a plan in place that addresses real threats and have regular training drills to keep your staff well prepared.

Useful guides and information on preparing for disasters:

Minimising Disaster - He Rauemi Resource Guide (PDF, 1.04MB)

Emergency Procedures - He Rauemi Resource Guide (PDF, 268kB)

Preventive Conservation - He Rauemi Resource Guide (PDF, 1.07MB)

Public Safety and Security - Refer to 1.20 of the Governance, Management and Planning Module 1 (PDF, 178kB)

Disaster preparedness: Light (PPT, 12.7MB)

The Canterbury Disaster Salvage Team website also has very useful information on how to protect your institution from the effects of fire, flood, earthquakes, pests, and mould.

Mitigating risk to collections

Vicki Humphrey, Head of Conservation at the National Museum of Australia presented a workshop series on mitigating risk to museum and gallery collections.

Mitigating risk to collections (PPT, 856kB)

Hypothetical Museum risk register (XLS, 62kB)

What should I do in the event of an earthquake?

Since the devastating earthquakes in Christchurch in 2010 and 2011, New Zealand institutions are more aware than ever of how important it is to prepare for such events. Protecting the safety of staff, visitors, and collections involves planning and other preparatory measures.

If your building starts shaking, try to take cover under a desk or table or in a secure area such as a doorway. Watch out for objects above you (such as ceiling tiles or wall hangings) that could fall.

There are some steps you can take to minimise damage to your collection. Large shelving units and display cases can be bolted to the floor and walls. In storage areas, place straps or netting around the shelves to prevent objects from falling onto the floor. Fragile objects like glass and ceramics should be well padded and wrapped to protect from breakage. Use a quake wax on non-porous ceramics or stone objects to help secure them.

Put together a disaster kit for your office containing torches, water, first aid supplies, a radio, batteries, and non-perishable food. Have regular training sessions and drills with your staff to ensure they are well prepared in the event of an earthquake.

How can I protect my organisation in case there is a fire?

Protecting your staff, visitors, and collections from fire requires a lot of forward planning. Make sure your institution has a well thought out fire safety plan and that all staff have been well trained. Make sure that the evacuation exits are clearly marked and that fire extinguishers are readily available. Keep track of who is in the building and set up an outdoor assembly point for staff and visitors to meet. Keep copies of important documents (like insurance policies and back-ups of museum records) off site, such as in someone’s home.

All rooms should be fitted with smoke alarms that are checked regularly. It is also worth investing in a sprinkler or gas flooding system to protect your collections. Gas flooding is excellent for high value collections, but can be very costly to install and maintain. Sprinklers are a less expensive option and have proven to be very effective. Water damage is reversible in most cases (with care), but it is still advisable to keep valuable collections stored within enclosures (like boxes) that further protect from water and smoke damage.

Prevention is the key, so make sure that everyone is vigilant about fire safety. Keep an eye out for any sign of electrical damage in the building. Always turn off appliances and heaters when they aren’t needed, and never leave them unattended.

How can I keep my collection safe from flood/water damage?

If your area is prone to flooding, make sure that objects are always elevated when on display and in storage. In the event of a flood, be very careful around electrical appliances and outlets and do not stand in the water. If you know how, turn off the power supply to the building.

If some of your collection items are affected by flooding or water damage, consult with a professional conservator about what sorts of treatments or long-term care you should implement. Have your building inspected afterwards to ensure there isn’t a mould infestation, which could further damage your collection.


Disaster preparedness poster

Our disaster preparedness posters provide a quick reference guide to help your museum prepare for, respond to, and recover from the impact of a disaster. Your first copy is free – all you have to do is ask! 

View the disaster preparedness poster (PDF, 906kB)

You can order additional copies of the poster for $15 each. Posters are A2 size.

Contact us to order a copy of the Disaster preparedness poster:
natserv@tepapa.govt.nz | 0508 678 743