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Providence during the Great New England Hurricane of 1938

Providence during the Great New England Hurricane of 1938

Who doesn’t wish they could wave a wand and make a collections emergency disappear? You have to be a serious masochist not to want that.

But as my architect says, Silver linings, silver linings.

Every disaster has a silver lining. We’ve had what we call a “water event” at work. That’s a terrible thing in a place full of historic and irreplaceable items. But there is good news!

1. We found it and contained it quickly.
2. We had rapid response from staff, building mitigation professionals, mechanical engineering contractors, and our architect.
3. No one was hurt.
4. Collections were moved off-site and into freezers rapidly.

We were lucky: we have an emergency preparedness plan and we’ve been through several smaller events both in the Museum and in the Library, so we know when to roll out the wet-vac, call the HVAC technicians, and call the NEDCC hotline. We know to make lists and document as we work. We know who is good at what, and how to work together, and we trust each other.

Because of our plan, our rapid response and super team, we were able to contain the problem and less than 1% of the affected items, which is phenomenally good fortune, were actually “wet.” Everything else was “damp.”

We’re also very lucky to have responsive vendors who are already familiar with our systems and our rules, and who we always pay on time. Some shared history) helps, too.

So, what will help you successfully manage your next emergency?

  • A response plan that you have updated, practiced and tested
  • Fully-stocked response kits
  • Clearly defined and understood team roles
  • Respectful relationships between team members
  • Excellent relationships with vendors you trust
  • Each of these things takes time to build. We’re re-vamping our kits now and have already seen improvements based on this experience. Why not make a New Year’s resolution to make a plan for home or for work? You’ll never regret it if you need it!