Thefts in Libraries
(The final version, approved by ACRL and ALA in 1994) Prepared by the ACRL/RBMS
Security Committee, Susan M. Allen)
Emergency Plans for Museum
SUNY Cortland Memorial Library,
University of Maryland
at College Park Libraries Disaster Plan
Disaster Plan of
the Thomas G. Carpenter Library University of North Florida
University of Texas
at Arlington Libraries Disaster Preparedness Plan
EMERGENCY PLANS FOR
MUSEUM CONSERVATION LABORATORIES
By Michael McCann, Ph.D., C.I.H.
NEED FOR AN EMERGENCY PLAN
The need for emergency plans for museum conservation
laboratories - and for the museum itself - is made abundantly
clear by the devastating occurrences of fire in museums that have
caused loss of life and limb, have damaged the museum property,
and have destroyed irreplaceable collections. Less apparent but
no less significant is the potential loss of life or the damage
caused by other emergencies such as natural disasters (e.g.
storms and floods), releases of toxic gases or chemical spills,
etc. Emergency planning strives to lessen the loss of human life
and pain, structural damage, and disruption of services by
attempting to forsee all the types and routes of disasters and
address all potential emergencies which can be expected in the
In addition to the direct injury or damage that can be caused
by an emergency, possible lawsuits and workers compensation
claims could result if the museum does not have an adequate
emergency plan to prevent injury. Although the museum
conservation laboratory might have the most serious hazards, the
ultimate responsibility for developing an adequate emergency plan
lies with the museum administration. ( See CSA's data sheet (A
Health and Safety Program for Conservation Laboratories.)
TYPES OF EMERGENCIES
Most museums have emergency plans in case of fire because of
the grave threat to both occupants and property - including the
museum's collection. However there are many other types of
emergencies which can require evacuation or other emergency
procedures. These include natural disasters such as floods and
hurricanes, electrical failure, sprinkler leakage, bomb threats,
chemical contamination, medical emergencies, etc.
The modern conservation laboratory contains a wide variety of
toxic and flammable substances. Emergencies in conservation
laboratories can include accidental release of toxic gases - such
as ethylene oxide used for fumigation, toxic chemical spills -
especially of large amounts of solvents, fires and explosions,
and even personal injuries resulting from physical accidents.
Whether the emergency emanates from a conservation laboratory,
or in an unrelated section of the museum, the conservator must be
able to safely shut-down any process, no matter how complex or
intricate, at any point and prepare to evacuate the building.
Failure to have pre-planned emergency abort procedures for such
processes as fumigation could result in a more serious emergency
than the original one.
WHAT IS AN EMERGENCY PLAN?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
requires that all employers have written emergency action plans
(29 CFR 1910.38 ). If the museum has fewer than ten employees,
the plan may be communicated orally to employees.
The emergency action plan must, at a minimum, include the
1) Emergency escape procedures and emergency escape route
2) Procedures to be followed by employees who remain to perform
(or shut down) critical processes before they evacuate;
3) Procedures to account for all employees after emergency
evacuation has been completed;
4) Rescue and medical duties for those employees who are to
5) The preferred means for reporting fires and other emergencies;
6) Names or regular job titles of persons or departments to be
contacted for further information or explanation of duties
under the plan;
7) Written priorities for artifact vs people safety.
The plan developed must cover the museum as a whole, as
required by OSHA regulations. The conservation laboratory,
because of the special hazards found there, needs to develop its
own emergency procedures which should be incorporated into the
overall museum emergency plan.
There are three main steps involved in the preparation and
implementation of an emergency plan: planning and documentation
of such, training and periodic drills. All three of these are
crucial if the emergency plan is going to work as intended.
The effectiveness of the emergency plan will depend primarily
on the amount of planning. The first step of the planning stage
involves identifying all the potential emergencies that could
develop. Next, procedures must be developed which will be
followed in case of an emergency. In particular this involves
establishing a chain of command and assigning particular roles to
employees and developing the following: an adequate emergency
communications system of alarms and notifications; a detailed
evacuation procedure; shutdown procedures; and procedures for
meeting other types of emergencies. It is important to involve
all employees in this planning process in order to ensure maximum
effectiveness of the final emergency plan.
Obtaining Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) is crucial for
providing information on chemicals to assist in the hazard
evaluation stage of emergency planning. MSDSs give information
on hazards of the product, handling precautions, decomposition,
emergency and first aid procedures,etc. (See also CSA
conservation hazards data sheets listed at the end of this data
Two of the greatest potential hazards in the museum
conservation laboratory are chemical spills - particularly of
solvents, and leaks of fumigants due to a faulty gas cylinder,
malfunctioning exhaust system or similar accident. More detailed
information on possible emergency procedures for these types of
accidents will be found later in this data sheet. Each
laboratory will have to examine its activities and materials to
determine other potential hazards which could result in emergency
situations including the above mentioned natural disasters,
failure of electrical systems and possible personal injuries
(accidents, heart attacks, etc.).
Roll of the Museum Staff
The emergency plan, when formulated, will rely on various
staff members to form Emergency Teams and carry out the various
emergency procedures developed. An Emergency Coordinator should
be appointed to coordinate the work of the Emergency Teams. The
duties of this coordinator include 1) assessing possible
emergencies to determine the response needed , 2) directing the
emergency response effort, 3) calling in outside emergency
services such as the fire department and medical aid as needed,
4) directing the shutdown of the museum when necessary, and 5)
directing/determining safe re-entry or other post-emergency
Since the role of the Emergency Coordinator is so crucial, it
is essential that a back-up coordinator be appointed. In
addition there must be adequate trained personnel for the
Emergency Teams themselves so that trained teams are always
Depending on the size of the museum there may be more than one
team trained for various types of emergencies. Possible areas in
which teams have to be trained include:
- use of various types of fire extinguishers
- first aid, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
- shutdown procedures
- evacuation procedures
- chemical spill control procedures
- use of self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA)
- search and emergency rescue procedures
- protection or removal of valuable collections
OSHA has detailed regulations concerning fire-fighting
procedures and the use of fire extinguishers. These regulations
allow for three situations: l) total evacuation in case of fire
alarm; 2) partial evacuation with some employees allowed to use
fire extinguishers; and 3) all employees allowed to use fire
extinguishers. If any employees are allowed to use fire
extinguishers, then OSHA specifies training and other
requirements. Each museum must make its own decision as to who
is allowed to use fire extinguishers.
Some types of emergency responses such as responding to leaks
of fumigant gases, chemical spill control and use of SCBA gear
would probably involve staff members involved with the
conservation laboratory or fumigation equipment since they would
have the most expertise in these areas.
First aid and evacuation procedures are often assigned to
security staff since they are well-acquainted with the building
and all its exits. In addition they are usually readily
available in case of emergency. In some instances, security
guards might also be trained in emergency search and rescue
procedures, although this is often left to police or
fire-fighters. This might be particularly important when
disabled visitors or staff ( e.g. people in wheelchairs or with
disabling diseases such as severe emphysema) need to be
evacuated. Of course, if security guards are going to have
expanded roles beyond their original guard duties, then the
increased responsibility must be accompanied by more careful
recruiting, more training and even higher pay scales.
In all these situations, it is important that members of
Emergency Teams be able to determine when not to intervene.
They must be trained to recognize when a fire or other emergency
is beyond their capability to handle. If there is a chance that
team members might receive fatal or disabling injuries, they
should wait for professional fire-fighters or emergency response
There are three groups of people who need alerting in case of
an emergency: employees and others in the museum; Emergency
Teams; and special groups of people outside the museum.
First, an alarm system is needed to alert people inside the
building as to the emergency and the need for evacuation. OSHA
regulations (29 CFR 1910.165) requires that alarm boxes be
available within a travel distance of 200 feet. Recommended
alarm systems include supervised telephone, manual fire alarm, or
pull box stations with paging systems to transmit messages
throughout the building. Special alarm systems connected to
smoke detectors, sprinkler systems, ventilation systems or the
like can also be part of the overall alarm system. In addition,
special alarms to alert visually or hearing impaired individuals
should be considered. Note that these alarm systems should have
an independent power supply in case the emergency affects the
The alarm system must be distinctive so that employees will
easily recognize it and respond quickly. In addition, each
employee should be informed as to the proper procedures for
Second, there must be an emergency communications system for
the Emergency Teams. Portable radio units are the best for this.
The office of the Emergency Coordinator should serve as the
headquarters for coordinating emergency efforts. In case of
evacuations, the reporting area for evacuees might be the best
location for an alternate headquarters for quickness of
Third, there are a number of people outside the museum who
should be notified in case of emergency. In some instances
museums choose to connect alarm systems to a central facility
such as the guard station and whoever is on duty there has the
responsibility to notify the appropriate outside people. An
up-to-date, written list of key personnel to be notified in order
of priority must be easily accessible.
One such group consists of local authorities such as the fire
department, police department, Health Department, OSHA, and other
emergency services. Where appropriate, alarm systems should be
directly connected to appropriate authorities. The other group
that might need notifying would include the museum director,
staff physician, and other off-duty essential personnel.
Emergency evacuations should be considered even as the
building is planned and built. At this time, the proper number
of exits and routes should be incorporated into the building.
The Life Safety Code and OSHA regulations specify building
construction, numbers, locations and sizes of exits, access to
exits, marking of exits,etc. ( 29 CFR 1910.36 and 1910.37).
The essence of the regulations are that repetitive and
well-marked exit routes be provided for each and every building
occupant. OSHA regulations do not cover museum visitors; they
must be considered an additional dimension in the evacuation
Evacuation routes should be clearly identified for each
working location and for each location where museum visitors
might be. Floor plans showing evacuation routes and any safe
areas should be included in the plan and also located in visible
spots throughout the museum.
The crucial factor in planning evacuation routes and
procedures is getting everyone out of the building in the
shortest time possible.
The plan should include descriptions of particular duties
assigned to employees including those needed to:
1. maintain essential services
2. assist evacuation
3. check for total evacuation
4. count staff
5. attend to any first aid needs
Special attention has to be given to the problem of evacuating
disabled persons. This not only includes the obvious examples of
disabilities such as people in wheelchairs, and visually and
hearing impaired persons, but also people with less obvious
mobility impairments such as severe emphysema, heart problems,
or advanced age. Such people might not be able to move fast
enough on their own to leave the building in a short enough
period of time. Procedures for evacuation of disabled persons
might include training of security guards in moving people in
wheelchairs, provision of safe areas to wait for evacuation
assistance, etc. The emergency coordinator should have knowledge
of the locations of disabled employees, and even of visitors, to
the extent possible. Special procedures should be prepared if
groups of disabled individuals are visiting the museum.
Chemical Spill Procedures
Spills of flammable or toxic chemicals can pose a major risk
to people in the area and even the entire museum, especially if a
fire results. Even minor spills, for example of a few cubic
centimeters of mercury, can be a hazard to those in the area and
must be cleaned up quickly. A spill of a pint of a solvent like
toluene could be a major problem.
The emergency procedures that are developed for spill control
must specify when and how an individual can clean up a spill by
him or herself, and when the spill control team must be called
in. Even if the spill is cleaned up on the spot, the Emergency
Coordinator must be notified and a report filed.
For major spills, the Emergency Coordinator or the senior
member of the spill control team on the spot must evaluate the
degree of seriousness of the spill in order to determine whether
only the immediate area or the entire museum must be evacuated.
Then the clean-up procedure can start. It is essential that
the spill control team have adequate personal protective
equipment. This usually means impermeable suits, gloves, goggles
and respiratory protection. Although air-purifying respirators
with chemical cartridges may be sufficient in many instances,
self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) with full face mask
provides the best protection for all possible spills. Proper
spill control materials should be available near all chemical use
areas, but the spill control team should also have a portable kit
of spill control materials. Once the spill is cleaned up and any
fire hazard eliminated, and the all clear given, then workers can
be let back into the area.
Fumigation Emergency Procedures
Fumigant gases like ethylene oxide, methyl bromide and
sulfuryl fluoride (Vikane) are extremely toxic. If accidental
release of these fumigants occurs during a fumigation process,
there is the potential for a major disaster that could not only
affect people working in the museum, but possibly the community
also. Because of the potential for such disasters, very
stringent procedures need to be developed for the fumigation
process which will minimize the chance of an accident, and if one
occurs, allow for a quick response.
First, fumigation should only be done at a time when the
museum is not open to the public and when only essential
personnel are in the museum. Appropriate authorities such as the
Health Department and the Fire Department should be notified so
they have advance warning of a possible accident. In some cities
and states, this is a legal requirement. If a large scale
fumigation is going to take place - for example, fumigating the
entire building- and the museum is located in a residential
neighborhood, then the community should be informed well in
advance of this occurrence and told of procedures that will be
taken to protect them.
The area in which the fumigation will take place should be
posted with signs (if inside the museum), and roped off if
outside the museum. Guards should be posted during the entire
time of the fumigation to ensure that no one enters the area by
accident. This can be of particular concern when fumigation
occurs outside in an area like the museum parking lot. SCBA gear
and other personal protective equipment should be available in
case of a leak or other emergency.
There should be a detailed checklist for each step in the
fumigation process. Exhaust systems used for fumigation chambers
should have an emergency power supply in case of electrical
failure. In addition the room in which the fumigation chamber is
located should be on a separate ventilation system which vents
directly to the outside. Air sampling equipment is mandatory to
be able to tell when the fumigant is gone and to detect possible
In case of an actual emergency involving a fumigant leak, then
emergency procedures similar to those used for chemical spills
should be followed.
If an emergency occurs requiring a partial or total evacuation
of the museum, then any hazardous activities occurring in the
areas to be evacuated must be shut down. This could include
on-going fumigation, spray painting in the exhibits shop, solvent
cleaning in the conservation laboratory, etc. The purpose of
these shutdowns is to minimize the risk of these materials
catching fire or otherwise increasing the scale of the
The emergency procedures developed for this shut-down must
emphasize speed and safety. Solvents and solvent-containing
materials must be quickly placed in flammable storage cabinets,
solvent waste disposal cans and the like. Fireproof document
boxes or other suitable containers should be readily available
for protection of valuable artwork. The valves on fumigant gas
cylinders such as ethylene oxide should be closed. Once these
are done, then get out quickly.
Without proper training of all employees about emergency
procedures, the museum's emergency plan remains just a piece of
paper. There are several levels of training required. All
employees should receive training in how to report an emergency,
how to recognize emergency communications, and how to escape from
their worksite. Depending upon the nature of the emergency plan,
all, some or no employees will receive training in how to use
fire extinguishers and how to give emergency first aid.
Emergency Teams will receive specialized training depending
upon the nature of their assignment. In particular, personnel
responsible for responding to chemical spill and leak emergencies
will require specialized training in the proper selection and use
of such personal protective equipment as face and eye protection,
gloves, whole body suits, and self-contained breathing apparatus
(SCBA). Insufficient training in the use of personal protective
equipment could result in severe injuries or even fatalities to
Emergency Team personnel in actual emergencies. ( See CSA data
sheet on Respiratory Protection for Museum Conservation
Laboratories for more information.)
Training needs to be done 1) when the emergency plan is first
developed; 2) when it is updated; 3) when new equipment,
materials or processes are introduced; 4) for all new employees
or if an employee gets new duties; 5) if drills indicate the need
for further training; and 6) at least on an annual basis.
While some of the above mentioned training can be provided by
museum supervisory staff (e.g. drill procedures), certain areas
require outside personnel to properly and effectively carry out
training programs (e.g. use of SCBA gear).
Rather than wait for an actual emergency to test the
effectiveness of an emergency plan, regular drills should be
instituted. Fire drills are the classic form of emergency
drill. These should be carried out semi-annually and only a few
crucial individuals such as the Emergency Coordinator, the chief
of Security and the Museum Director should know about the drill
in advance. The fire drill should also be held in conjunction
with your local fire department. It is essential that all
museum personnel participate in the drill and this should be
enforced by museum administrators. If the museum conservation
laboratory, for example, has certain activities that go on that
should not be disrupted except in an actual emergency, then
possibly advance warning could be given that an emergency drill
will be held during a certain period (e.g. a week). During this
period no crucial activities should take place that could not be
interrupted so as to ensure that all personnel participate in the
drill. Note that special drills might be necessary to practice
shutting down these special activities in case of an actual
Many museums are reluctant to hold a drill when museum
visitors are present. The experience of some museums that do
hold fire drills during museum visiting hours is that people
respond favorably. If the public is not participating in the
drill, there is no way to be sure that the emergency plan will
work in an actual emergency.
A fire drill is the most common type of emergency practice.
However drills for other types of emergencies, such as a medical
emergency, chemical spill or leak of toxic gas should also be
instituted. In many cases these would not involve evacuation so
that there would be minimal disruption of museum activities.
Once the drill is completed, an evaluation of its
effectiveness must be carried out. Critical areas for evaluation
include number of people evacuated, number of people left inside
the building and unaware of the drill, and people "late" in
leaving the building ( i.e. past the evacuation time goal).
Comparisons of average and slow evacuation times are useful for
re-planning evacuation routes.
SOURCES OF ASSISTANCE
The actual development of an emergency plan by a museum will<
require expert help. There are a large number of public and
private agencies that can provide special assistance in
particular areas free or at minimal cost. These include:
1. Center for Safety in the Arts
2. OSHA State Consultative services
3. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
- 10 regional offices.
4. National Fire Protection Association. 470 Batterymarch Park, Quincy,MA
5. American National Red Cross. National Headquarters, Safety
Programs, 18th and E Streets NW, Washington, DC 20006.
6. Your insurance carrier.
7. Industrial hygiene, public health, medical and other relevant
departments of local universities.
8. Professional societies such as:
American Society of Safety Engineers, 850 Busse Highway,
Park Ridge, IL 60068.
American Industrial Hygiene Association, 475 Wolf Ledges
Parkway, Akron, OH 44311.
National Safety Council, 444 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago IL 60611
9. Private consultants.
Center for Safety in the Arts, New York (1985) *
A Health and Safety Program for Conservation Laboratories
Fire Prevention in the Conservation Laboratory
Safe Pest Control Procedures for Museum Collections
Solvents in Conservation Laboratories
Storage and Disposal of Conservation Chemicals
Thymol and o-Phenyl Phenol: SAfe Work Practices
Ventilation for Conservation Laboratories
McCann, Michael. Artist Beware: The Hazards and Precautions in
Working with Art and Craft Materials. Watson-Guptill, New
York (1979). *
National Fire Protection Association, Quincy, MA
NFPA 101-1985. Life Safety Code
NFPA 911-1980. Protection of Museums and Museum Collections
NFPA 57-1973. Standard on Fumigation
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
Respiratory Protection ... An Employer's Manual.
DHHS(NIOSH) Publication No. 78-198A, Cincinnati(1978).
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. A Guide to
Industrial Respiratory Protection. DHHS(NIOSH) Publication
No. 76-189, Cincinnati (1976).
National Safety Council. Accident Prevention Manual for Industrial Operations.
8th edition, Chicago, pp.439-471 (1981).
Occupational SAfety and Health Administration. How To Prepare for Workplace
Emergencies (OSHA 3088 Rev.), U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington
DC ( 1985).
Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Occupational Safety and Health
Standards 29 CFR 1910
Subpart E - Means of Egress
1910.37 Means of Egress
1910.38 Employee emergency plans and fire prevention plans
Appendix to Subpart E - Means of Egress
Subpart I - Personal Protective Equipment
1910.132 General requirements - personnel protection
1910.133 Eye and face protection
1910.134 Respiratory protection
1910.135 Occupational head protection
1910.136 Occupational foot protection
Subpart K - Medical and First Aid
1910.151 Medical services and first aid
Subpart L - Fire Protection
1910.155-156 Fire protection and fire brigades
1910.157-163 Fire suppression equipment
1910.164 Fire detection systems
1910.165 Employee alarm systems
Appendices A-E of subpart L
* These are available from the Center for Safety in the Arts.
CSA also has prepared conservation hazards data sheets on
respiratory protection, medical surveillance, x-rays, and dyes
CSA also publishes the 4-page newsletter Art Hazards News
which appears 10 times per year.
SOURCES OF ADDITIONAL HELP
Written and telephone inquiries about health hazards in museum
conservation and restoration shops will be answered by the
Information Center of CSA. For permission to reprint this data
sheet, or for a copy of our publications list, write: Center for
Safety in the Arts, 5 Beekman Street, New York NY
10038. Tel. 212/227-6220.
This data sheet has been made possible with the assistance of
public funding from the National Museum Act and the Museum Aid
Program of the New York State Council on the Arts. CSA is
partially supported with public funds from the National Endowment
for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts.
c Copyright Center for Safety in the Arts 1986
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SUNY Cortland Memorial Library
Emergency Phone Calls
Harassment, Threats, Unruly Behavior . . .
-- Call 911 (top)
A medical emergency is defined by the Public Safety Department as "any
incident which requires hospitalization for medical-psychological
care and that could involve serious injury or death." Steps to follow if such
an emergency occurs in the library are outlined below.
Call 911 immediately
Notify the Director's Office (ext. 2221) if the emergency occurs Monday-Friday
between 8 am and 4:30 pm.
Notify Circulation (ext. 2525).
Wait for Public Safety to arrive
Stay with individual who is sick or injured. Do not move the individual
and do not administer any medications such as aspirin, etc.
Keep onlookers away; keep people from blocking doors, etc.
Move furniture (chairs, etc.) away from the individual
Public Safety Department is responsible for assessing the situation, administering
first aid, initiating contact with other agencies (Rescue Squad, ambulance
service, fire department, counseling center, etc.) and for preparation of
appropriate documentation and reports. In the case of death or serious injury,
Public Safety will contact the appropriate Vice President or designee who
is, in turn, responsible for all necessary communications with offices and
individuals. The College Relations Office will handle communications with
the media, when required, about all campus medical emergencies.
Exit quickly through nearest fire door.
Do not stop to gather coats, books, etc.
Do not use elevators. Maintenance will lock elevators on the first floor.
Urge users to follow staff in exiting the building. Users will tend to go
to the main stairwell. Staff should direct traffic flow to alternate stairwells.
Library staff are responsible for moving people away from the building once
they have exited. Huddling at the doors hinders the activities of Public Safety
and the Cortland Fire Department.
Public Safety should arrive within two minutes; the Cortland Fire Department
within four-five minutes. The building should be re-opened within ten minutes
after the Fire Department arrives if it is a false alarm.
Emergency Phone Calls
Since we have no paging system, caller should be directed to call Public Safety
In some cases (for example, a youngster calling trying to find his/her parents
because their house is burning), it would be wise to call a reference librarian
and try to make some effort to find person.
Use your common sense.
Harassment, Threats, Unruly Behavior
If imminent danger, call Public Safety (ext. 2111).
Be sure they know exactly where you are calling from
If before 4:30 pm weekdays, notify the Director's Office (ext. 2221); if evening
or weekend, notify reference librarian (ext. 2590) of your action as soon
Notify circulation supervisor (ext. 2525) so he/she will know problem location
when officer(s) arrive.
If there's no imminent danger, call Director's Office (ext. 2221) before 4:30
pm weekdays or reference librarian (ext. 2590) on weekends, who will decide
Late Night Reading Room Attendants: Call Public Safety (ext. 2111).
Bomb Threats -- Call 911
Whoever receives the threat should call 911 immediately
Notify the Director's Office (ext. 2221), Monday-Friday, before 4:30 pm. Director's
Office will notify each area of the building.
Evenings and Weekends: Notify reference librarian (ext. 2590) who will notify
circulation supervisor (ext. 2525) and direct the notification of Periodicals,
TMC, EMC, and maintenance staff.
Staff will calmly announce that people in their work area should evacuate
the building because of a bomb threat.
Avoid panic; Public Safety will clear the bookstacks.
Move people away from building once they have exited.
Public Safety will re-open the building
Emergency lighting should come on automatically
Evenings and weekends: notify Public Safety (ext. 2111) that power has failed
If prolonged outage, discuss with reference librarian on duty (ext. 2590)
This document Copyright (c) 1995 SUNY Cortland Memorial Library.