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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Maine Emergency Management Agency Conference

Maine Emergency Management Agency’s Partners in Emergency Preparedness Conference will take place April 22-23 at the Augusta Civic Center.

Over the course of two days, panels will feature a variety of approaches to emergency preparedness. (See the action-packed agenda here). The very first session on Tuesday, April 22, at 8:30 am, includes a panel entitled Talking with the Firefighter, Listening to the Museum Director.  Led by Ellen Dyer (Cultural Emergency Resource Coalition), Heidi Leinonen (Lincoln County Emergency Management Agency), and Julia Clark (Curator of Collections at the Abbe Museum and Assistant Fire Chief of the Orland Fire Department), this panel will look at priorities, responsibilities, and communication needs of emergency responders and cultural stewards.

Those who are interested in attending the conference can register at the door.

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.

First Forum A Success

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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.”