To the editor:
While May 1 — May Day — has many purposes, those of us who work in cultural institutions and care for historic collections should take a moment on this day to do something simple to help make a difference if an emergency occurs. Locally, we have been fortunate to have a strong partnership with our local emergency management director, Capt. Dennis Levasseur of the Salem Fire Department, and with Andrew Grilz of COSTEP-MA (Coordinated Statewide Emergency Preparedness).
Over the past year, the cultural community has had the chance to gather and learn about how a major institution like the National Park Service handled a major flood in an archive and has also had the chance to participate in tabletop exercises taught by emergency personnel, hosted by the House of the Seven Gables.
The idea of May Day for cultural institutions is promoted by the Society of American Archivists and encourages all who take care of historic resources to take manageable steps to plan for emergencies in their library, museum, historical society or even city office. Though there might not be time today to recreate a disaster plan, perhaps there is a moment to go and take stock of your building’s disaster kit or review your assembly area with your staff. Check the batteries in your smoke and CO detectors or see when the last time your extinguishers were serviced. Schedule a date with your staff to review your institution’s emergency plans so that they feel empowered to help both the visitors and your collections when an emergency does occur.
Salem also has a chapter of COSTEP that will be meeting on a biannual basis and consists of members ranging from small churches to federal organizations. We encourage new members to join us for meetings and to reach out to us for advice on ways they can better protect their treasures. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for local information.
Cultural Triage Officer, COSTEP Salem
Site Manager, Historic New England