Heritage Response Team Training – Session 2

By Elyse Driscoll

On Saturday September 20th, the Heritage Response Team reconvened in the Celeste Bartos Theater of the Museum of Modern Art for a training session dedicated to health and safety.

The first two presentations were by Monona Rossol, the President and founder of Arts, Crafts, and Theater Safety (ACTS), a non-profit organization dedicated to providing health and safety to the arts. She is a chemist, artist and industrial hygienist and has served as the Health and Safety Director for Local 829 of the United Scenic Artists, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) and as an instructor for the American Institute of Conservation’s Collections Emergency Response Team (AIC-CERT). Monona specializes in occupational health and safety training for art, theater and museum professionals in the United States and Canada. Her recent presentations for the Heritage Response Team were extremely informative and her sharp sense of humor made for a fun training session.

During her first presentation, “Health and Safety Issues Associated with Disasters”, Monona discussed regulations enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA’s mission is to assure safe workplaces by enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance. An institution’s disaster strategy is required to be in compliance with federal laws and regulations and must be in writing if the institution employs more than ten people. Many emerging professionals may be interested to know that OSHA does not protect volunteers, interns, or independent contractors.

For additional information on how to minimize health and safety risks visit the websites of The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the American Conference of Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) and the American Institute of Conservation (AIC). These organizations offer additional information and benefits to their members.

In her second presentation “Precautions and Equipment for Disaster Environments”, Monona discussed the safety standards for personal protective equipment. Her advice is to purchase equipment that meets the most recent standards. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) establish performance criteria and testing requirements for devices used to protect individuals from workplace hazards such as impact, optical radiation and exposure to biological hazards, chemicals, fine dust and particulates. It is important to select the proper equipment including protective eyewear, clothing, footwear, hard hats, gloves and respirators (fit testing is mandatory) for the specific hazards you may encounter during disaster recovery efforts.

In addition to personal protective gear, Monona recommended supplies such as two-way radios and landlines for communication, generators, emergency lighting (consider theatrical suppliers!), food, water, clothing, mattresses, and portable televisions for entertainment. Because some recovery and clean-up efforts require specialized training and certification, it may be helpful to have key personnel trained to assist with security, CPR, first aid, HAZCOM, safety and emotional support.

Be prepared to mobilize local resources in the event of an emergency! Monona strongly encouraged us to network with other organizations and institutions and to build relationships with local emergency responders and regulators such as fire marshals, building inspectors and health inspectors.

Our third presentation, “Physical and Psychological Effects of a Disaster” was by Marnie Suss, a representative from the New York City Office of Emergency Management (NYC OEM). Marnie offered advice on how to manage stress, how to care for yourself and others and how to communicate with individuals that have been affected by a disaster. She shared a wonderful animation of a lecture by Dr. Brené Brown entitled “The Power of Empathy”. The animation captured the essence of Marnie’s discussion, establishing the kind of connection that leads to healing.

The final presentation was conducted by two FDNY firefighters who were also representing OEM’s Community Emergency Response Team (NYC CERT), a community program designed to train people to prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergency situations in their neighborhoods. Their presentation “Minor First Aid” (not for the faint of heart!) focused on various injuries and tips for providing assistance and basic first aid until emergency authorities arrive. If you are interested in becoming a CERT volunteer in your community, click here for more information.

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