On Saturday, September 13th, I gathered with a group of approximately 50 people in the Celeste Bartos theater at the Museum of Modern Art for the first training session of the Heritage Response Team (HRT). The training is organized by NYC’s chapter of Alliance for Response (AFR), which promotes disaster preparedness within the New York arts community. Attendants consisted mainly of conservators but also include administrators, archivists, librarians, security personnel, and artists, most of whom were motivated by personal experiences with emergencies in New York City.
The seven training sessions begin with the fundamentals of disaster preparedness and move toward the specifics of recovery collections after a disaster. The sessions are run (very smoothly I might add) by Cindy Albertson, Project Manager for AFR and an Assistant Conservator at MoMA, Beth Nunan, AFR co-chair and Associate Conservator at the American Museum of Natural History, and Derya Kovey, AFR co-chair and Associate Registrar at the New Museum. Each session is divided into multiple presentations by specialists who have been invited from all over the US.
During the first session, “Introductions and the Incident Command System,” we were introduced to AFR and the objectives of the HRT training. The day’s first presentation, by Herman Schaffer, Director of Community Outreach with the NYC Office of Emergency Management and CERT (NYC OEM for short), introduced the many OEM resources that help residents prepare for emergencies. For example, do you know which evacuation zone you live in? And no, this is not the same thing as the FEMA flood zone (which was news to me!). Well, you can click here to find out. They also make nifty guides geared toward all kinds of emergencies and host a Readiness Challenge.
The second presentations was by David Carmicheal, Director of Records and Information Management Atlanta Housing Authority, who literally wrote the book on implementing the Incident Command System (ICS) in cultural institutions. ICS is a streamlined and easily enforceable system of command that can be adapted to any emergency, large or small. It supersedes and integrates all other response systems at the emergency site, thereby eliminating redundancy and reducing chaos. It is a widely used system that seems quite easy to learn, but I think takes much more practice to master. Curious about ICS? You can learn more about it here through this free FEMA course!
At the end of the first session, I walked away with the lesson that all emergency responders had to be prepared for themselves and their families first and foremost, or else they will not have adequate time and resources to respond to emergencies elsewhere. So I went home and dutifully planned with my husband an emergency meeting place near our home, as well as a location where we will go near each of our work places. OEM also recommended that we find friends who live in a different neighborhood to be our “emergency buddies” so that we can shelter at one another’s place. Terrific idea, though our “emergency buddies” are still TBD. Any takers?
Finally, I volunteered to make a Go Bag to talk about during the next class. It’s a bag with essential supplies that we keep on hand so that in an emergency, we can just grab it and be ready to go. It actually took me a couple of weeks to assemble it and I still need a few more supplies, but it was a fun process that really got me thinking about preparedness. During my internet searches for emergency supply bags, I also found some apocalyptic “bug out bags” that are intriguing if not very practical in NYC. As you can probably guess, most of them involve a lot of weapons. I opted for granola bars instead.
Here is a picture of my Go Bag. I have one in the apartment and one in the car.
Water bottle, 1st aid kit, solar and crank powered AM/FM radio and flashlight, multitool, spork, hand warmers, glow sticks, mylar-lined ponchos, lighter, hurricane matches, can opener, iodine water purifying tablets, granola bars, pen, pencil, note pad, hygiene products (tooth brushes, tooth paste, etc.)
What I still need:
Batteries, an extra set of house keys, cash, glasses, a written list of contacts