In early February 2010, the National Trust launched a revised and expanded Disaster Preparedness, Planning & Response landing page at PreservationNation.org. Although the project was well underway prior to the heartbreaking earthquake in Haiti, that disaster and other recent calamities—California wildfires, Midwest floods, Hurricane Katrina—provide unyielding reminders that objects of cultural heritage are fragile and vulnerable to the acts of a volatile natural environment. Following these disasters, the preservation community has struggled to prevent the loss of damaged historic buildings because their care is often supplanted by more immediate concerns for human safety and the restoration of critical infrastructure. Additionally, local, state and national response frameworks are often adverse, in a variety of ways, to preservation efforts.
While the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and many state and local agencies have integrated preservation into disaster planning and response mechanisms, the role of preservation in those proceedings varies depending on the willingness and ability of concerned preservation organizations to participate, as well as the disposition of the particular lead agencies (FEMA, state emergency management agencies, local bodies) to offer a seat at the table. Because of this reality, it is critical that any parties who are concerned with preservation—from statewide organizations to historic homeowners—take it upon themselves to not only plan for and protect the resources that they manage, but also advocate for the continued institutionalization of preservation within local, state, and federal disaster plans.
The new landing page at PreservationNation.org is designed to help a broad range of audiences—home and business owners, Main Streets, local governments, preservation organizations and cultural institutions—understand the threats to the historic resources they steward, learn what steps they can take to prepare in advance for disasters, and gain knowledge on how to streamline the response process. Fortunately, many groups throughout the nation have developed a wealth of materials addressing these issues as they relate to specific audiences and disasters. Here are a few highlights from the lists of resources that we provide:
- Preparing to Preserve: An Action Plan to Integrate Historic Preservation Into Tribal, State, and Local Emergency Management Plansis a seminal report produced in 2008 through the federal Preserve America program. The document describes the state of the field with regard to disaster planning, and offers a series of useful recommendations for expanding the role of preservation before and after disasters.
- Probably the single best preservation-integrated state plan, Disaster Planning For Florida’s Historic Resources (1000 Friends of Florida, Florida SHPO et.al.) is a model for how other states should approach the planning process. The 84-page document addresses policies and processes specific to Florida, as well as the federal response framework, and advises localities on how to prepare for and respond to disasters. A companion document, Disaster Mitigation for Historic Structures: Protection Strategies, offers an explanation of how building owners and stewards should approach physical improvements that safeguard against the impacts of disaster.
- Integrating Historic Property and Cultural Resource Considerations into Hazard Mitigation Plans(FEMA, #386-6) is a helpful and thorough guide from FEMA.
- dPlan is a new online tool designed to help cultural institutions create a plan for disaster prevention and response. The Getty Conservation Institute has created its own excellent print guide, also for cultural institutions, titled Building An Emergency Plan: A Guide for Museums and Other Cultural Institutions.
- Treatment of Flood Damaged Older and Historic Buildings, produced by the National Trust, is a guide on flood mitigation for homeowners.
- FEMA’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program provides funds for creating disaster plans to localities and organizations.
- Preservation Brief 41: The Seismic Retrofit of Historic Buildings, from the National Park Service’s series of briefs on preservation issues, is a very useful illustrated guide.
To view more resources and see how you can ensure the longevity of the historic resources you care about, visit the landing page.