Emergency Response Plans
How to prepare an emergency response plan (including downloadable templates) and ensure people on site know how to respond in an emergency.
Emergency response plans document the actions to take during an emergency. The aim is to ensure salvage operations are undertaken safely and that damage and long-term deterioration of the building and its contents are minimised.
Your emergency response plan needs to be specific to your building and its requirements. The plan needs to be easy to understand and accessible to any person who needs to use it.
Key staff such as the duty manager and salvage operation coordinators will need copies of the relevant parts of the plan.
One copy of the salvage plan should be kept in a secure location on site and another securely held elsewhere on site or off site by a responsible person. It’s a good idea to laminate all documents in the plan. You may need to use them in adverse weather, and this helps make the documents harder wearing.
Preparing an emergency response plan
In its simplest form, an emergency response plan is just a collection of contacts, instructions and guidance aimed at supporting response activity in what could be a challenging environment. It involves:
- Compiling an emergency contact list
- Making decisions about prioritising objects in collections
- Ensuring locations of those key objects are clearly recorded
The Fire & Rescue Service may need to salvage objects so it is vital to include site and room plans too. The plan should identify locations where salvaged objects might be recovered to, and who might undertake ‘first aid’ object treatment.
Plans will vary in scope and detail according to the size and complexity of the premises concerned. Smaller establishments may only need a contact list and a room plan. Large premises such as museums, historic houses and art galleries will require detailed plans.
Emergency response plan contents
Emergency response plans are usually structured in three parts:
1. Emergency information
This section is the most important. It contains the relevant details needed for the initial response to an emergency. It needs to be readily accessible at the front of the plan.
Documents in the plan should be presented in the order they are likely to be used. You should only add documents you will need during an incident. For example, evacuation procedures followed by a contact list and then a site plan pin-pointing utility shut off points and hazards to fire-fighters.
This section of the plan needs to include:
- A contact list of the personnel responsible for salvage operations
- A contact list of service providers
- Site and building plans
- Salvage priorities
- Grab sheets (procedures for the removal of items)
- Location of temporary storage facilities and ‘first aid’ treatment of salvaged objects
- Arrangements for the longer-term storage or treatment of damaged objects
There are many ways to present such information. Choose a presentation that works best for your organisation.
Historic England’s Part 1: Templates for an Emergency Response Plan provides examples and lists for you to use and tailor to your own needs.
2. Responding to an emergency
The second part of the plan needs to set out how you will handle an emergency. You will need to think about how you will organise teams, what are their roles, responsibilities and tasks, and how to work with the emergency services. This section also needs to set up a system for logging of incidents and recording and tracking salvaged objects.
Further advice, checklists and examples of logs is given in Part 2: What to do in an emergency.
3. Guidance and reference documents
This section of the plan provides reference documents the team might need when responding to an emergency such as ‘first aid’ treatments for different materials.
Part 3: How to treat and store objects after an emergency which provides advice on common conservation treatments such as air-drying and freezing, and dealing with mould, plus quick reference sheets on saving:
- Ceramic and glass
- Natural history objects
- Stone and plaster
Historic England suggests preparing individual grab sheets for each priority object. This ensures objects are rescued in the correct order, with, if the incident allows, those of the highest significance first. Each grab sheet consists of:
- A floor plan with the room of the priority item highlighted clearly along with a close up of the exact location within the room.
- A photograph of the item is added along with details of how to remove the object, including manual handling instructions and equipment requirements.
To help salvage teams identify objects quickly, a simple description is sometimes more useful than the proper object title; for example (see image) we refer to the Grey Teal (Anas gracilis), simply as a taxidermy duck, which is what most people would identify with. If a room is filled with similar items all of significant value, however daunting the task may be, it is still worth sorting them into an order of removal.
Items may be prioritised according to their ownership, historic significance, rarity or size and ease of removal. If a priority item is too large or heavy to move, or if the very fabric of the room is important, such as a hand painted wallpaper, then the grab sheet would indicate to divert threats away or protect in situ.
It may be helpful to keep detailed photographic records of in situ objects so that should the worst happen and they are damaged, they can be repaired.
Training and testing
Regular training exercises help test the plan and ensure that the people using the plan are familiar with it. Training which is practiced under simulated conditions using the emergency plan, often provides the most realistic feedback in terms of the strengths and weaknesses of the plan.
Desktop or practical training exercises could include reading plans, using grab sheets, manual handling and carrying out emergency treatment to damaged mock objects.
These practices should also periodically include a joint exercise with the Fire & Rescue Service, if possible.