Emergency Preparedness Plans During Construction

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    • #132911
      Nicole Roush

      Considering that many emergencies tend to happen when construction occurs at a museum/cultural institution, what are the best things that museums and the contracting construction crew can do in order to prevent an emergency from happening?

      Ideas that I had come up with are to move archives off-site during the construction, keep staff and the local fire department informed of these proceedings, and to have an end of day walk-through to make sure everything is unplugged and safely stored (crew and staff need to sign off on this). I haven’t been able to find any literature that deals with this issue specifically, but perhaps other people may know of something?

    • #132914

      Some of the biggest disasters in UK cultural institutions (Uppark, Windsor Castle, Hampton Court Palace, Alexandra Palace) involved fire. In two cases the use of heat in repair and construction work which had caused nearby timber to smoulder and catch fire several hours later when the building was unattended. So the first rule is to have very strong rules about hot work (e.g. joining pipes, laying molten seals or roofs, using hot air guns to strip paint). Another cause was a powerful light left switched on, near a curtain. It was switched off remotely, but people didn’t realise it would light up when the circuit was reconnected. They couldn’t see it, but it set the curtain on fire, then the timbers caught and the building suffered major damage.
      So electrical equipment MUST be unplugged when left unattended.

      Never let a contractor start work without giving you their mobile phone number, in case you need to call them when they have left, on a Friday afternoon, and you discover they left a mains water pipe disconnected… next to an electrical control box.

      Insist on contractors giving a written procedure including the tools they will use and agreeing to seek approval from a specific named person before making any changes, unlike the firm that agreed to use a wet cutting device when making a doorway in a stone wall at the museum to prevent stone dust problems for the museum or passers-by in the street. When they realised the aperture was too small they switched to a dry grinding wheel because they had sent the wet cutter away. The museum filled with a thick fog of stone dust within minutes and passers-by were also exposed to a stream of fine gritty particles.

      Golden rule: Think of the worst thing that could happen and don’t let anyone tell you you’re being over-imaginative. It probably has happened in another museum already !
      And try this from the Bartlett School in London

    • #132913

      OSHA has a standard about what they call “Hot work.” (OSHA Standard 1910.252, on “Welding, Cutting, and Brazing,”)

      The idea is that any time hot tools are being used, there has to be someone whose job it is to stay and watch as long as the tools are hot. Debris has to be cleared well away from the hot site, and the person who watches has to be authorized to stop the job (without financial penalties) if they think something dangerous is happening.

      Another issue is that detectors are often taken off line during construction in order not to get them messed up. If smoke detectors are not feasible, then heat-rise detectors should be used, but – bottom line – there should be nothing hot that is not supervised.

      Good sources of info:
      “Fire Risk Assessment” Jean Tetrault, Journal of the Canadian Association for Conservation, vol 33, 2008, 3-21

      NFPA 909: Code for the Protection of Cultural Resource Properties– Museum, Libraries, and Places of Worship NFPA, Quincy, MA, 2005 (Latest edition)

      Fire Safety Self-Inspection Form For Cultural Institutions and Fire Protection in Cultural Institutions J. Andrew Wilson, from the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)www.archives.gov/preservation/emergency-prep/fire-index.html

      Fire Safety Self-Inspection Form For Cultural Institutions and Fire Protection in Cultural Institutions, J. Andrew Wilson, from the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) http://www.archives.gov/preservation/emergency-prep/fire-index.html

    • #132912
      Nicole Roush

      Thank you to everyone for all of the great responses!!

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