Helping museums in the East Midlands to serve the public better

Helping museums in the East Midlands to serve the public better

What to Do in an Emergency

Don’t be afraid to put the REDS Team on standby as soon as you discover an incident. You may not need us, but we can at least start getting ready to help you. Depending on when you ring, we may have to call you back (in less than five minutes). A Team member will ask you a number of Key Questions and Prompts. These are designed to help you and us. Take a little time now to read them through. They may raise questions and ideas about your own Disaster & Emergency Plans, and how you would cope in a crisis.

REDS 24 Hour Emergency Line
0781 501 5091

Please note that the REDS team can only assist you if your Annual Operating Agreement is up to date.

Key Questions


Have you contacted your insurance company?

Health & Safety

  • Is the situation under control, or still developing?
  • Is there access to the building now? If not, when is access likely to be possible?
  • Do you need REDS now, or later on?
  • Have you undertaken a risk assessment?
  • Would there be permission (from the emergency services and your governing body) for REDS to enter the building?

Senior Management

  • Have you contacted senior management/chair of trustees?
    Someone will need to sign off money, and someone will need to deal with the press.


  • Have you made the buildings and contents secure?
  • Do you know who people entering the building are? Ask them to identify themselves and keep a site register.

Key Prompts

The REDS member will cover the following prompts, or will ask you to phone back as soon as you can:

About You

  • What is your name & role?
  • What is the name of your museum?
  • Which building has the incident?
  • What is the address and telephone number?
  • How do I get to the site and where is the nearest parking?
  • What number are you ringing from? If we ring back, who will answer?

Disaster Plan

  • Can you briefly explain what happened? When did it start? Is it static, or getting worse?
  • Is your Emergency Manual to hand? Also phone book and Yellow Pages?
  • Is there a PRIORITY RESCUE LIST and plan of the galleries and stores?
  • Do you have a disaster kit, or can you assemble some basic materials from local stores? IF NOT…
    Can you contact other local museums who may have disaster equipment or staff resources available?
  • Are you on your own? Is there someone available with knowledge of the collections – a curator, other staff member (including retired), or member of the governing body?

Being Safe

  • Is the building safe to enter, or when is access likely to be granted?
  • Are all staff entering the building advised of safety risks and properly protected?
  • Is there any flood water? Where did the water come from? Is it contaminated?
  • Are you able to undertake a risk assessment? If not, who is (such as a Health & Safety Officer)? Some risks will be obvious such as slip or trip hazards and broken glass, but also think about manual handling, poor air quality, mould contamination, contaminated water and stress.
  • Is there power and water? If power is still on, DO NOT enter a flooded building or wet area until it has been officially declared safe. If power is off, you will need to take steps to get it declared safe and turn supplies back on. What are the timescales to get power and water? IF NO POWER. . . .
  • You will need power and light. You can do this through the Fire & Rescue Service who have salvage and emergency equipment, or you will need to contact a local hire company, or even Emergency Planning Officer via the Police.

Being Accountable

  • Who else knows about the disaster? Have you contacted senior staff / trustees / chair of governors?
  • You will need to contact your insurers as soon as possible and they will appoint a loss adjuster.
  • Do you have a camera/films and flashgun? Your insurance company/loss adjuster will need a clear record of the scene before you start moving things.
  • You will need to spend money. Is there someone on site with the ability to authorise expenditure? (armed with cheque book, order book or credit card – remember to keep all receipts)
  • The press will be arriving soon. Will someone be available to talk to the press?
  • Do you need to contact the Harwell Document Restoration Priority User Services? They will give a free assessment for organisations in the REDS scheme.
  • Harwell 24 hr Hotline tel no: 01235 434373.

Being Practical

  • You are going to need a lot of space (sorting areas, treatment areas and dry storage). Do you have, or can you safely clear, one or more open areas? Are they secure?
  • Can you organise/cone off a clear parking area outside the building (contact the police if necessary)
  • Can you give me a tour of the building?
    Before we arrive/look around, there are some tasks other staff and helpers could be getting on with –
  • Create a central control point (phones, paper, pens, black/whiteboard, light etc)
  • Clearing large areas for object rescue
  • Removing undamaged objects from areas where they are still at risk.
  • Ensuring building security is maintained (especially vulnerable access points)
  • Shopping for extra items of protective clothing
    Creating a First Aid point/identifying people with First Aid experience.
  • Preparing a staff rota which includes plenty of breaks (consider working shifts to cover tired members of staff, and sending some staff home in order to come back later)
  • Organising refreshments and rest area.
    Handling calls from the press or public (do the phones need to be diverted?)
  • Making simple posters to advise closure of the building
  • Researching specialist suppliers, conservators or damage management companies (internet access?)

Remember – Think Safety Think Security