Environmental monitoringOpinionplanning

Emergency planning: company collections and archives

green and white emergency exit sign with peson running Most companies have undertaken emergency planning involving staff and visitor evacuation, IT and furniture removal – depending on the threat –  but how many of you include your historic company collections and archives in your plan? For instance, how many of you would even consider the unique antique oil painting of the company’s founder in the rush to remove the easily-replaceable-backed-up-centrally-overnight laptop?

If your plan does include your company’s irreplaceable history, bravo and well done – you’re on the right track not only to keeping your own history, but a history that will have impacted on the town and society around it and upon the business world too. What of those who don’t?

Emergency planning is often seen as a theoretical exercise carried out only for insurance or policy purposes. This is fine until it’s needed. At that point you realise how important it is.

Years ago, as a museum curator, I created an emergency plan. It featured a description of the museum and collections, the evaluation, access and salvage procedures and the correct post-emergency process. It  had an appendix of emergency contacts and detailed where to find useful items like the disaster boxes, ladders and torches (by all the doors – elementary. Are yours?)

This was an interesting theoretical exercise  until I was contacted at 4am one dark, windy, winter morning to be told that ‘the highest ever storm surge will hit our area in four hours’. I had to persuade the police to let me through a total road block ‘You understand that if you die it’s nothing to do with us?’ in order to get to the museum. On arrival, my fab local team were there already assessing the situation, disaster boxes open and waiting. The boxes included lists of the most important items to remove, in what order, and what tools were needed to remove them. All the necessary tools, equipment and clothing to save the collections was in the boxes. We moved the most important items upstairs while the flood waters rose and the police and fire engines kept vigil, along with camera helicopters overhead.

In the event, the flood waters missed the building by only 30 feet. Businesses down the road were not so lucky. Another museum was watching the advancing flood from the front door when they realised that water was bubbling up through the floorboards. They had their own emergency plan which had enabled them to save their collections and demonstrate their survival skills. Can your company demonstrate that?

If you have an emergency plan, do check that your historical assets are included. Tables, chairs, PCs  etc can be replaced – the physical record of your company’s history cannot.