The latest initiative developed by the disaster network Delaware Disaster Assistance Team (DDAT) is a unique partnership between DDAT member institutions and the student chapter of the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) at the University of Delaware (IAEM@UD). Last fall, DDAT launched a pilot program to pair up graduate student volunteer teams of 2–3 students to work with representatives of DDAT member organizations to assess their existing institutional disaster plans (if they had one) and to make recommendations and provide support and resources to either create a plan or enhance an existing one. This is as a win-win project: DDAT member organizations get semi-professional support and assistance with a task that many seem to find daunting but that is, of course, at the core of any organization’s preparedness, while the student volunteers gain valuable experience not only consulting on the development of disaster plans but also in interacting with cultural heritage organizations, which gives them a unique perspective and challenge. The initial pilot involving a library has just been completed, and results were both informative and positive. A second pilot involving a museum will be initiated soon, and a full roll-out of the program will take place early this spring. Work is also underway to incorporate graduate students in UD’s Museum Studies Program as assessment team members assigned to museums to strengthen the teams’ skill set. To learn more about the partnership project, contact Pat Young at the Disaster Research Center, University of Delaware.
Susan Duhl, private conservator and AIC CERT member, and Faye Rosenbaum, General Manager of the Martha Graham Center for Contemporary Dance, presented a program to DDAT members as part of the Spring 2014 gathering on May 21 at Hagley Library in Wilmington, Delaware. Susan discussed the theoretical and practical issues relating to stress and mental health that can arise among responding staff members during and following disaster situations, while Faye reflected on her experience and that of the Martha Graham Center’s staff during their response to and recovery from Superstorm Sandy.
Although DDAT programs have addressed a broad range of mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery topics in the past such as creating a disaster plan, working with first responders, triaging impacted collections, and developing wet material recovery skills, this was the group’s first time addressing and considering the topic of mental health needs that often manifest in the wake of a hurricane, tornado, flood, or other disaster.
It was particularly interesting and useful to reflect on the more unique situations that can develop when the collections impacted belong to a performing arts organization such as the Martha Graham Center. Because the collections themselves serve a different role within the organization than those of a museum, library, or historical society, the response and recovery process differed and created challenges with regard to triage, communication with response and recovery professionals, etc.
This program served as an outstanding starting point to address a vitally important topic and DDAT looks forward to continuing this discussion moving forward as we work together to support one another in strengthening our disaster preparedness skills. For more information on the program, please contact Pat Young, DDAT Chair, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last week we held our first forum in Philadelphia, where state cultural stewards and their respective state emergency managers met, many for the first time. Participants seemed to embrace the more informal design of the forum, which resulted in lively and enlightening discussion. Participants were asked what the best part of their forum experience was, and here are some of their responses:
“Just talking and listening to others and gaining knowledge from their experiences. And that I was not alone…we all have funding and personnel shortages, but are still moving forward with disaster planning.”
“Group discussions and exercises. During these sessions we identified we are more alike than different. We were able to see steps to improve supporting the whole community.”
“Getting to know emergency management better – both their lingo and structures and their people.”
“Everything, but mostly the network that was built thanks to the way the workshop was designed. The constant change from group to group makes you aware of really who are the people around you.”
“Working with my state partners, as we were able to begin discussing plans for moving forward. Also, hearing about other state models was interesting; the entire scope of these collaborations was new to me.”