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Conservation Advice - Emergency Procedures

Fires and Floods

Emergency salvage procedures for museums, collections and historic sites are essential and are needed to ensure that the correct actions are carried out in the case of fire, flood, or other physical damage. They require the activation of staff or volunteers and specialists who will be able to respond and deal with the problems quickly and efficiently thereby minimizing damage.

All Accredited museums are required have an Emergency Plan which would include the following:

  • Identify the importance of the building, its architectural elements and contents.
  • Prioritise these to determine what should be rescued or protected first in an emergency situation.
  • Make the significant items clearly identifiable in the event of an emergency.
  • Identify a salvage team of local staff and volunteers who can be available in the event of an emergency
  • Train the salvage team in the handling, protection, removal and temporary storage of collections.
  • Keep a list readily available of the salvage team, along with other staff and specialists who will provide vital assistance, advice and support, with up to date contact details.
  • Keep a store of materials and equipment needed in an emergency situation on-site in an area less likely to be affected by an emergency, such as an outbuilding.
  • Identify a temporary storage area on the property to enable salvaged objects to be stored, recorded and treated.
  • Undertake regular training and familiarization for all staff and volunteers who could be involved in an emergency to enable them to undertake their roles efficiently and effectively.

It must be stressed that human safety is paramount and no-one should ever take unnecessary risks in order to save historic contents or buildings.

Fire

Can cause many types of deterioration:

  • Chemical changes through combustion
  • Physical change though heat damage
  • Chemical and physical changes through smoke
  • Associated damage through use of water or other material to extinguish the fire

Fire is a catastrophic agent of deterioration and the most important factors to consider are its prevention, detection and limitation.

Expert advice should always be sought on how to manage this.

Precautions:

  • Check all electrical wiring regularly
  • Line chimney flues if open fires are used
  • Manage carefully any hot works e.g. use of blowlamps or welding
  • Adequate lightening protection
  • Use correct artificial lighting

Detection:

  • Ensure fire detection system is adequate and maintained

Limitation:

  • Fire compartmentation to manage and limit fire

Select appropriate extinguishers to have and use

Flood

Again can cause many types of damage:

  • Objects may be swept away
  • Physical damage caused by objects knocking together
  • Chemical damage through corrosion
  • Biological damage including pest and mould infestations
  • Staining of objects
  • Hygroscopic material will swell in water

Precautions:

  • Don’t keep or store objects in areas prone to flooding e.g. basements
  • Good building maintenance to prevent water leaks into building
  • Manage spaces housing objects to prevent damage from spills, condensation, splashes

Emergency Salvage Guidelines

Put your own and others safety first and do not take risks

Responsibilities of the salvage team:

  • To move and protect objects:
  • Collect any necessary materials and equipment first
  • Move priority objects first
  • Wear any necessary personal protective equipment
  • Handle and lift objects safely  - for yourself and the object
  • Move objects to a safe space
  • Install in situ protection where required
  • Work in pairs

Handling objects during salvage:

  • Work in pairs
  • Stop and think before taking any action
  • Wear vinyl gloves if handling wet objects
  • Use  crates, trolleys, boxes  where possible but do not overload

At the safe area:

  • Have a table prepared for objects
  • Separate wet and dry objects
  • Keep packing materials available
  • Set up documentation systems to log objects as they are moved
  • Keep area secure

Immediate treatment:

  • Identify objects requiring urgent attention and wait for conservation advice
  • Remove excess water from ceramics, metalwork and furniture with paper towels

Packing objects:

  • Pack objects ready for removal
  • Document what is in each box and number boxes
  • Label large objects
  • Keep track of all objects and document before allowing them to leave the site

Useful Resources for your Emergency Plan

You can download and use these Object Salvage Guidelines in your own Emergency Plan:

Download Object_Salvage_Guidelines.doc...

You can download and use this Object Salvage Equipment list in your own Emergency Plan:

Download Object_Salvage_Equipment.doc...

You can download and use this Object Salvage Teams Checklist in your own Emergency Plan:

Download Object_Salvage_Teams_Checklist.doc...