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Safe Heritage

Collections Emergency Response

Collections Emergency Response (CER) is the first aid to collections with an incident. CER aims to limit the damage and bring the objects to safety. The Emergency Response Officer (ERO) focus on people and buildings, the CER is for the collection.

The CER-organization consists of a trained team that can be quickly on site to provide first aid to a collection that was affected by an incident. The CER-team typically consists of employees with jobs in management and conservation of collection. They should have sufficient expertise in the field of collection to be able to effectively respond to incidents or emergencies. Trained people from the Emergency Response Team can also do the CER. The person responsible for the CER is part of the crisis team of the organization. It is also possible to outsource the CER to an external company.

The CER-plan describes the organisation and procedures of the collection emergency response. Such a procedure provides guidelines on how employees should deal with an incident or calamity. Each type of incident or calamity requires a separate procedure, such as fire, flooding and theft. For each type of object or material the procedure can include different instructions.

Up-to-date contact information
The CER-plan always contains a current list of contact information of people in the CER-team (both corporate and private). There is also a list of contact details of external organisations. It is important that prior arrangements have been made with these organisations on possible calamity assistance. Emergency services include transport, storage, (vacuum) freeze dry, restoration and specialised emergency response to collections.

Priority list for evacuation
The CER-plan includes a procedure with instructions for evacuation of the collection in case of emergency. That evacuation is based on a priority list. How will the collection keeper define which objects must be on the priority list? That's usually not easy. The criteria mainly deals with the value of parts of the collection or individual objects. It involves both the financial and the cultural historical value. The importance of an object within the context of the collection also plays a role. Finally, things such as property (is it our own collection or on loan?), size and physical condition also play a role in determining whether or not an object is on the priority list.

A priority list should be realistic and practical. The longer the list, the less manageable it will be. It is therefore important that the collection keeper limits the number of objects. In crisis situations, it is useful if the list is arranged by area (depots and exhibition rooms).

Shelter capacity
The CER-plan also describes the emergency storage capacity for the collection. Emergency arrangements can be made with similar organisations, with moving companies or transport companies that have storage capacity, or owners of neighbouring buildings. There is also the possibility to make your own arrangements with specialised emergency services. These are specialised in saving collections (or parts of) and are often able to give shelter to objects. 

Emergency supplies and emergency cart
The CER-plan also contains a list of emergency supplies and a list of contents of a emergency cart. Supplies can contain cleaning supplies, tools and packaging materials. It is important that these reserves are ready to go in set places. In addition, a kit or cart should be available with the most needed materials and tools. This way, in case of emergency, the necessary measures can be taken immediately.

The CER-plan also contains a training program. It is advisable to practise this plan once a year. This could be in addition to an annual evacuation exercise.


  • Organise an annual exercise with colleagues from other organizations. They can easily assess objectively what works well and what can be improved. Moreover, such joint exercise provides an opportunity to exchange knowledge and experience.
  • Link an evacuation drill to the annual evacuation.