Federal Funding Impact Story #7

Project: Finding Common Ground: Cooperative Training for the Cultural and Emergency Response Communities

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Granting Agency: National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)
Grant Program: Division of Preservation and Access, Education and Training
Institution: Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC)
State: Massachusetts
Congressional District: 8th Massachusetts Congressional District
Grant Period: January 1, 2017 – December 31, 2018
Award Amount: $196,696
Institutional Match Amount: $253,096

Jobs Created:
– Project Coordinator (1 FTE for 24 months)
– Will hire instructors from the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy (number and amount of time  has yet to be determined)

Project Description
Disasters can affect and disrupt people’s lives, severely impact continuity of functions at all levels of government, and jeopardize the very existence of our nation’s humanities collections, cultural institutions, and historic sites and properties. Until recently, there was little communication, cooperation, or collaboration between the cultural heritage community and the emergency responder community in addressing cultural heritage concerns both before and after disasters.

What do we mean by the emergency responder community? They include the fire department; the police/sheriff’s department; local, county, tribal, and state emergency management officials; emergency medical technicians; the local emergency planning committee; the public works department; the mayor or community administrator’s office; and even the National Guard and the Coast Guard. By bringing both communities together to learn from each other at the local level, we can effect the inclusion of cultural heritage in municipal risk assessment, mitigation planning, response to, and recovery from a disaster. It is time that both communities come together to recognize that once life safety has been addressed following a disaster, the health and welfare of a municipality depend on the recovery and vitality of all sectors of a community, including cultural heritage.

To address these issues at the local level and to serve as a pilot at the national level, the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC), the state library agency – in partnership with COSTEP MA (Coordinated Statewide Emergency Preparedness in Massachusetts), the Massachusetts Archives, the New England Museum Association, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services (DFS) – proposes a two-year, statewide, preparedness-and-response training project for cultural heritage and emergency responder personnel. The training package developed will be shared nationally with other states’ fire service and cultural heritage institutions. The partners, working closely with the project director and coordinator, will adapt, create, and present a series of five workshops on the following topics: risk assessment and mitigation, disaster planning (in two parts), disaster response, and salvage. Each of the first three workshops will be presented five times at locations across the Commonwealth.  Due to the nature of the live fire demonstration and salvage exercises, the last two sessions will be held at the two Department of Fire Services campuses in eastern and western Massachusetts. A session on the basics of preservation will be offered in an asynchronous format for all participants to complete ahead of the in-person workshops.

NEH funds will be used to hire a project coordinator; adapt and develop course materials for both the face-to-face and online presentations; present the workshops; cover consultant fees, travel, and supplies; and develop and convene train-the-trainer sessions for instructors. These sessions will introduce potential instructors to the purpose – to develop the foundation for consistent message and high-quality training – the content, and the available tools for the full course.

What was the need for the grant?
We wanted to address the problem of cultural institutions being left out of responses following disasters. By obtaining federal funds we are able to work closely with the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy to coordinate training between the cultural heritage organizations and the firefighters in an 18-month training program that will enable people from both communities in the same municipality to train and work together. The eventual impact is better communication and protection for the cultural heritage organizations and the development of the workshops into an online course to be distributed nationally.

What has been the primary impact of this project?
Eventually, we hope that this will bring the cultural heritage community and the firefighting/emergency management communities together to protect our cultural and historic patrimony before, during, and after disasters. The aim is to involve at least 200 members of the two communities to work together throughout the course as trained in the five offerings of the first three workshops (risk assessment, disaster planning I and disaster planning II (tabletop exercises) and at the two final ones (a live burn and salvage).

Submission by: Gregor Trinkaus-Randall, Preservation Specialist, Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners

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