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'Emergency Preparedness' Peer Development Group

Museum Name

Southampton City Council Arts and Heritage; New Forest Centre; Royal Armouries, Fort Nelson; National Museum of the Royal Navy

Museum Contacts

Matthew Hancock, Conservator, Royal Armouries Fort Nelson

Hilary Marshall, Centre Manager, New Forest Centre

Richard Noyce, Curator of Weapons and Ordnance, National Museum of the Royal Navy

Karen Wardley, Collections Manager, Southampton City Council Arts and Heritage

The Project

'Emergency Preparedness' PDG members meeting experts at the Museum of London

‘Emergency Preparedness’ Peer Development Group

Dates

May 2014 - January 2015.

What were the Project aims?

To create a structured, supportive community of people from Hampshire Solent museums with a common interest in Emergency Preparedness so that they can work together to learn more about it.

What was the impact of the Project?

The museums in the Emergency Preparedness PDG vary in scale and expertise. The members identified a common starting point: as Accredited museums they all had Emergency (or Disaster) Plans, but they recognised the importance of practising and testing emergency plans. Their key focus was to ensure that these plans are live documents, owned and understood in their organisations, rather than something that sits neglected in a drawer. So the group decided to target their efforts towards creating a toolkit for training to implement Disaster Plans.

The group identified the key components of the toolkit and allocated responsibilities for developing each one: basic checklist; sources of disaster kits and other resources; training and practice; business continuity tools; floor plans. These resources have been shared via southeastmuseums.org.

To develop their knowledge of the topic, the group members visit to the Museum of London, a museum with considerable previous experience of disaster planning and one which has already shared knowledge and raised standards through, for example, publishing e-learning and resources. They met with experts who showed them the plans currently in place at the Museum of London, explaining how they are developed and maintained, and how staff are trained. The group used this opportunity for individual group members to raise and discuss specific areas of interest or concerns, as well as to learn about good practice.

In addition, three of the museums in the group collaborated to engage Harwell’s to conduct a partnership emergency preparedness training day.

What went well and what didn't go well?

The group started out with six members however one member dropped out at the start of the programme and one left their museum employment soon after. This diminished the group’s person power – however the remaining four maintained a strong commitment to the project, meeting regularly although occasionally meeting dates had to be changed to accommodate other priorities.

One of the museums in the group was much smaller than the others with less in-house emergency planning expertise. There was an initial concern that this would lead to an imbalance of benefits in the group. By talking through their different levels of knowledge and expertise at the launch event, however, all group members agreed that the challenge of keeping a plan live and understood was common to all. They found through their group discussions that every member had relevant knowledge and skills to bring to the table. One museum had already developed a ‘table top’ exercise that it was willing to share. When it came to the floor plans, it was identified that a colleague of one of the members had the skills to do this - and so he was co-opted to provide this function for the group. This was an unexpected partnership benefit.

At an early stage, the group explored the possibility of investing in a shared physical resource of emergency response materials and a sub-regional response team. They learned that alternative approaches - for example shared subscriptions to suppliers of disaster recovery services and exchanging contact details - are likely to be more achievable and deliver better value for money.

The resources developed by the group are already having a wider impact. After it had been mentioned at the PDG ‘Review and sharing the learning’ event, a volunteer-run independent museum asked to use the table top exercise. Their feedback: ‘We found your table top game very useful. It took place after an informal supper and a glass of wine, with nine volunteers present. Although ‘a game’ lots of discussion ensued. We have produced a report highlighting some important matters thrown up.’

Members really valued the networking opportunity and found that this was very helpful in keeping them motivated to work on what one described as ‘the dullest subject.’

Top Tips

  • Pool your ignorance and learn from each other and the past. Share your learning.
  • Consult with collegues in the museums’ community (don’t reinvent the wheel) – for example the Museum of London visit provided key insight into ensuring that there is a clear remit and budget for emergency preparedness
  • Few disasters are ‘big ones,’ more often the emergency is a leaky pipe.
  • Very resource intensive disaster recovery tools may be less valuable over time than simple ones, such as lists of contacts that can be rung up for advice.
  • Learn from the business community, not just from museums. That means going online. Often museums’ focus is on protecting collections when disaster strikes. There is a wealth of resources from other sectors about wider ‘business continuity’ i.e. devising plans and strategies that will enable you to continue your business operations when things go wrong.
  • Get help – for example from external experts when your group’s pooled knowledge runs out.

What are your plans for the future?

The group plans further improvements to the online resources they developed, for example by involving a graphic designer in the development of the table top training exercise, to create an appealing downloadable pack. They will be promoting the shared training to staff and volunteers in their organisations and are now exploring the options to jointly purchase services from emergency response suppliers.

Overall cost of the Project

£460.00 funded by the Peer Development Groups investment budget.