Collaborative Effort to Facilitate Disaster Planning at Maine Cultural Organizations

Cultural organizations around the state will soon have the opportunity to have trained facilitators help manage the process of creating a disaster plan for their institutions, thanks to a recent grant awarded to the Maine State Museum from Jane’s Trust. The project will include two rounds of facilitated planning, from September –December and again from February–May.

The Maine State Museum has long recognized that disaster planning is a bit of administrative housekeeping that cultural organizations all too frequently put off until disaster strikes, and a year ago it took the lead in helping address this situation by forming the Cultural Emergency Resource Coalition (CERC: Maine). CERC is a collaborative effort with the Maine Emergency Management Agency and several cultural agencies and conservators, including the Maine State Library, the Maine State Archives, the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, and the association Maine Archives and Museums. In its first year CERC focused on surveying Maine’s cultural community to evaluate the state of disaster planning, developing three levels of disaster planning benchmarks and resources to help streamline disaster planning for institutions of various sizes and complexity, and sponsoring disaster planning workshops.

With the Pejepscot Historical Society agreeing to act as a beta site, CERC is developing a facilitation guide that outlines, meeting by meeting, the process for a cultural organization to develop a solid disaster plan that meets the identified benchmarks. CERC is also working with FEMA to schedule a FEMA Corps team in Maine. After receiving training in using the guide and in issues facing cultural organizations, the team will go into the field and work directly with several of Maine’s libraries, museums, town offices, archives and other collecting institutions, helping them develop disaster plans.

Organizations interested in participating in the program may apply online through the CERC website (under the Write Your Own Disaster Plan tab). Participants will be selected to represent a broad range of institutional sizes, geographical locations, collections types, and building construction. For more information about this project, visit the CERC website or contact Ellen Dyer, CERC: Maine Coordinator, at CERC.Maine@gmail.com or (207) 287-6696.

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Full Steam Ahead in Maine

Delegates from Maine have been hard at work following our April forum in Philadelphia. Participant Dwane Hubert of the Maine Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) was able to allocate $45,000 of MEMA’s Homeland Security funds to a grant to the Maine State Museum for cultural disaster preparedness.  The grant will enable the Museum to hire a part-time coordinator who will create training and disseminate information about disaster preparedness to both cultural institutions and emergency responders. Funding will also cover the development of a website, purchase of supplies, and a few training sessions across the state.

A steering committee, consisting of representatives from the Maine State Museum, Maine State Library, Maine State Archives, Maine Historic Preservation Commission, Maine Emergency Management Agency, two conservators who serve on the AIC-CERT team, and the head librarian from Scarborough, ME, had actually met once, agreeing to lay the foundation for Maine’s cultural heritage emergency network with no funding in hand. Then Dwane and MEMA came through with the grant. The committee is called the “Cultural Emergency Response Coalition” or CERC – Maine.

Kate McBrien, Curator of Historic Collections at the Maine State Museum, said the April forum “was just the catalyst we needed to start a program in Maine.” We are delighted to oblige! For more information, contact Kate at Katherine.McBrien@maine.gov.