Five Reasons to Take My Emergency Preparedness Course at Starting Jan. 4

bigstock-hard-hat-with-path-577880I’m bringing my experience in building robust emergency management programs for cultural institutions to in January. It’s a web-based course that will partner with later sessions on Collection Risk Assessment by Rob Waller and Disaster Salvage and Recovery by Susan Duhl. I kick off the series by focusing on gaining buy-in, creating a plan, training a response team, and maintaining planning momentum. I will also discuss how to make your program stronger by partnering with local resources such as your emergency management office, training together with other institutions, and creating mutual aid agreements. Instruction includes a combination of lessons, chats, activities, and readings.

I know how difficult it can be to build momentum for emergency preparedness. Your colleagues may feel anxious about a disaster within their institution. They may be confused about their roles and authority in such a situation. Sometimes that can lead to procrastination or outright hostility toward planning. My course focuses on how to affect change in your institution to support not just writing a response plan, but building a comprehensive program that benefits from the involvement of all staff. The better your preparedness and planning, the better the outcomes will be when your institution is tested during an emergency.

Here are some reasons you or your colleagues may want to take my course:

  1. You know emergency preparedness is a core component of responsible stewardship, but you need experience. It’s not just about having a phone tree and a supplies cache (though those are important things!) Maybe emergency preparedness wasn’t your focus in grad school, or maybe it’s been a long time grad school, or maybe you are taking on new responsibilities at your institution. I’ll focus on strategies to build support for your plan, getting the right people involved, the key concepts to include in policy and response plans, and how to maintain momentum.
  2. Recent events or surveys have revealed significant risks to your collections, your building, and ultimately, the ability to fulfill your organization’s mission. Has your organization recently experienced a flood? A fire? Is there a construction project about to start? Have you had to defer a new roofing project and heavy snows are expected? While we mitigate many risks to our collections and organizations, there are some risks that may occur with a great level of uncertainty and a high level of impact. Having response and recovery plans in place can help limit damage to collections in these types of incidents. When everyone is familiar with the plan and practices how to organize a response and recovery effort, this helps the institution bounce back more quickly to fulfilling its mission after an emergency.
  3. Your colleagues aren’t as energized/excited about preparedness as you are, and you need strategies for convincing them to support the emergency management effort. Maybe you are a registrar, collection manager, conservator, curator, or other museum professional, and you want to meet best practices. After all, maintaining a disaster preparedness plans is one of the core documents indicated by the American Alliance for Museums. But you need to build some excitement around the plan. I have lots of experience in persuading administrators and colleagues to improve their state of preparedness through my work in institutions and through Alliance for Response NYC. It takes some strategizing, considering the needs of stakeholders, and some good timing.
  4. You need ideas to keep your institution ready to respond. Has your organization been through a period of good preparedness, but has let that momentum lapse? Has it been more than 2-3 years since your last disaster plan review, or salvage training? Get ideas in the course about how to reenergize the program at your institution while building your own expertise.
  5. You are looking for ways to get more involved with other colleagues and management and develop your opportunities for advancement. Emergency preparedness is a great way to start working with others in your institution if you aren’t already. Planning requires the perspectives of operations staff, security, finance, communications, and other departments. Advocating for better and continued preparedness can also hone your negotiation skills while gaining you visibility as a leader. We will discuss change management, creating a vision, and fostering partnerships with potential allies.

If you would like to participate but have questions, let me know at To register, visit The course starts January 4, 2015.

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Visiting Living with Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond at the Louisiana State Museum in March 2012.

About Becky Fifield

Becky Fifield is a cultural heritage professional with 25 years experience in institutions large and small. She is currently Head of Collection Management for the Special Collections of the New York Public Library. An advocate for preventive conservation, Ms. Fifield is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation, Chair of the AIC Collection Care Network, and former Chair of Alliance for Response NYC. She is also a scholar of 18th century female unfree labor and dress. There's a bit of pun in the title The Still Room, delineating a quiet space brimming with the ingredients of memory, where consideration, analysis, and wordcraft can take place. Ms. Fifield’s interests include museum practice, dress history, historic preservation, transit, social and women’s history, food, current events, geneaology, roadtrips, and considerations on general sense of place. Becky and her husband, Dr. V, live in the Hudson Valley.