How is an emergency simulation organized?
Published on 9 May 2024
How is an emergency simulation organized?
Pubblicato il 9 May 2024

In a previous article, we saw how important it is for employees of a museum, archive or library to organize frequent exercises to test their ability to react to an emergency.

But how do you organize an emergency exercise?

Below we see some basic principles to take into consideration to organize a simulation that is truly effective.

Precisely define a scenario

The first step to effectively structure an exercise is to choose and define in detail the emergency scenario to be simulated. In order to create a scenario that best meets the museum’s needs, it would be a good idea to precede the exercise with a careful risk analysis. In this way, it is possible to construct a situation that is as plausible as possible and compliant with the actual vulnerabilities of an organization.

Some information to add to the scenario to make it more plausible is the date and time of the emergency, the affected area of the museum, any injured people, the percentage of damaged material, and staff present inside the museum at the time of the event.

Identify areas for material processing

In the event that it is decided to carry out an exercise that involves the evacuation of the cultural heritage involved, it will be necessary to identify an area surrounding the building (or internal) in which to convey the material and carry out the safety operations.

The identified area must be as safe as possible and constantly monitored. Furthermore, this must be in a place that is not vulnerable to the emergency that affected the material (for example, in the event of flooding, a place below the level of the road surface will not be chosen).

Identify escape routes

Once the area to which the evacuated material will be conveyed has been established, it will be necessary to identify all the possible ways to reach that place and evaluate the most effective route. There may be different criteria for identifying the route to take, but, in general, it is advisable to choose a route that is as short and safe as possible.

When defining possible escape routes it will also be necessary to evaluate all possible impediments that could hinder a route. For example, in the event of an earthquake, the collapse of some structures could prevent you from undertaking an itinerary. Or, in the event of a blackout, some routes may be impassable due to electronic devices such as elevators, lifts or alarmed doors.

Select the simulacra

Generally, when carrying out an exercise, it is recommended never to move the cultural heritage preserved in a museum. The best option to practice moving and manipulating material is to choose simulacra that can simulate as much as possible the assets stored in the area to be evacuated.

For example, archives and libraries often use waste materials that the institution already plans to eliminate. For museums, however, you can find objects of little value that are as similar as possible to works of art, such as pictures, mirrors, frames, prints, and statuettes, or you can also use everyday objects, such as vases, chairs, and coat racks, which can simulate the size and weight of the works to be evacuated.

Using simulacra allows the people involved in the simulation to act concretely on the materials without the fear of ruining them.

Provide Personal Protective Equipment

In every emergency, it is always very important that all personnel involved wear Personal Protective Equipment, correctly maintained and suitable for the purpose, at all times during evacuation operations. In fact, in an emergency, there may be dangerous elements that can threaten the safety of the people involved: protruding or blunt elements, collapsed structures that make it difficult to move around the space, contaminating agents, and much more.

For this reason, even during the exercise phase, it would be a good idea to provide for the use of PPE for all personnel involved. The basic set includes a Tyvek suit, helmet, latex gloves, protective glasses and mask. This activity, although it may seem superfluous, is useful for making the team experience the reduction in visibility and mobility that can be experienced when wearing PPE. Furthermore, not everyone knows how to wear these devices appropriately.

Identify roles and tasks

Once the scenario and the evacuation route have been defined, it will be necessary to define the members of the emergency team and their respective roles. The team can be diversified and have a different number of members depending on the needs and size of the organization. It would be good, however, for the team to have at least the three figures described below.

Team leader

It is essential that there is someone with a decision-making role who coordinates all operations and decides on times and methods for the evacuation of the material. Acting without guidance risks generating confusion and exponentially increasing reaction times.

Building technical manager

For all emergency operations, it would be good to be able to count on a figure who knows the building’s structures and systems well. This figure, in fact, is fundamental for establishing escape routes and defining whether or not it is necessary to turn off the systems.

Collection manager

Another vital figure is a museum professional who knows the collection well, the location of priority works and who has mastered the procedures for moving, handling, packaging and securing cultural assets.

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