Funded as part of a New York Community Trust grant, the first Heritage Response Team training began in 2014, with six full-day training sessions held in the Celeste Bartos Theater in the Cullman Education Building of the Museum of Modern Art. Alliance for Response New York City pulled together some of the top experts in the field and developed a curriculum to train local professionals in emergency preparedness and coordinated disaster response. The curriculum combined aspects of the New York City Emergency Management’s Community Emergency Response Team program, the American Institute for Conservation’s National Heritage Responders program, and training curricula from the National Park Service.
Although the original plan was to train 40 team members, the quality of the applicants was so high that the team size was expanded to include all 50 applicants. The Heritage Response Team comprises a range of professions including: archivists, registrars, conservators, librarians, and security and operations personnel. Participants ranged from early to mid-career, and to senior-level staff and are based in a range of locations both inside and outside the NYC metro area, including Saratoga, Ulster, and Dutchess counties as well as NYC and New Jersey. Team members represent a diversity of institution and agency types, including historic house museums, libraries, and small modern museums, institutions with large, encyclopedic collections, and conservators in private practice.
Throughout the training series, HRT members participated in lectures, tabletop exercises, and question and answer sessions.
• Introduction to New York Office of Emergency Management Community Emergency Response Teams and Utilizing the Incident Command System
o HRT members also completed the online FEMA ICS 100B course: Introduction to Incident Command System
• Health & Safety and Physical & Psychological Effects of a Disaster
• Light Search & Rescue and Reentry after a Disaster
• Documentation and Damage Assessments
• Triage and Salvage
• Working with Recovery Vendors and Understanding Public Relations
• New York City Emergency Management
o Herman Schaffer, Director of Community Outreach
o NYC OEM – Marnie Suss, Mental Health Expert
• New York City Fire Department – Lieutenant Scott Kiernan
• Incident Command System for Collections expert – David Carmicheal, Director of Records and Information Management, Atlanta Housing Authority
• Industrial Hygienist – Monona Rossol, ACTS (Arts, Crafts, and Theater Safety)
• National Park Service
o Bob Sonderman, Natural and Cultural Resources (NCR) Regional Curator, and Director, NCR Museum Resource Center (MRCE)
o Mindy Rambo, Public Affairs Specialist
• AIC-CERT – Steve Pine, Decorative Arts Conservator, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
• Heritage Preservation – Lori Foley, Vice President of Emergency Programs
• Collections Recovery Specialists – Barbara Moore and MJ Davis
• Document Recovery Vendor – James Gilbert, Director of Document Recovery, Polygon
• Insurance Specialist – Sheila Palmer, Assistant Vice President for Loss Control Services, Chubb Insurance
• Sandy Case Study – Faye Rosenbaum, General Manager, Martha Graham Dance Company
Several of the Heritage Response Team trainees were also members of EPIC (Emerging Professionals in Conservation), a professional group hosted by the New York Regional Association for Conservation (NYRAC). With permission from the AFR NY Steering Committee, EPIC members posted summaries of some of the training sessions on their blog.
The final training session took place the weekend of April 25 – 26, 2015 and comprised two key experiences. On Saturday, groups of HRT trainees were required to convene and “deploy” to two pre-determined locations in NYC, responding just as they would if deployed for an actual disaster response.
On Day 1: 10 teams deployed to 9 sites:
New Museum of Contemporary Art
Hispanic Society of America
Lower East Side Tenement Museum
Metropolitan Museum of Art
National Museum of the American Indian
American Folk Art Museum
Rubin Museum of Art
Museum of the Moving Image
Each team met with a volunteer contact person at an NYC institution and walked through a mock “disaster.” The institutional contact set up a mock scenario by posting signage in various locations around the space where the “event” occurred. The signage indicated details of the event, such as the amount of “water” in the space, or whether there was a power outage or mold growth. HRT members fielded questions, took pictures and completed assessment forms, and advised the site liaison and gathered staff on best-practice next steps. A final report of the deployment activities was then created following AFRNYC documentation protocols. Both HRT members and participating institutions found the exercise to be educational and highly valuable.
The following day, Sunday, April 26, the HRT members convened at the Office of Emergency Management in Brooklyn. The morning began with a discussion of the previous day’s activities, allowing the groups to share their experiences. Then, the FDNY provided fire extinguisher training in the OEM parking lot.
The afternoon was allocated to practicing material salvage activities, which provided the trainees with hands-on object handling and triage experience using disposable objects previously damaged.
The Alliance for Response New York City Heritage Response Team (AFR HRT) is ready to respond to the needs of the NYC arts community during emergencies and disasters. Volunteers will provide advice and referrals by phone and email: email@example.com. Requests for onsite assistance will be forwarded by the volunteer to the AFR-HRT Coordinator for response.