Disaster Recovery at the American Museum of Natural History: An Interdisciplinary Approach Realized
The American Museum of Natural History has implemented a cross disciplinary approach to disaster planning that relies on internal and external communication and collaboration. The Museum's emergency management plan for evacuating and securing the facility proved to be effective on September 11 th 2001. However, it was determined that a preparedness review of the Museum's preparedness should be undertaken to ensure that the organization was prepared for the long term effects of a man made or natural disaster. This review, in part, resulted in the development of the AMNH disaster recovery committee with the following major areas of the institution represented: the scientific collections, security, safety, facilities, and information technology (IT). The committee focused its efforts on business continuity for the operations of the Museum and mitigation planning for the collections.
Surveys and interviews were conducted with all divisions to identify museum-wide priorities for ensuring immediate recovery of critical operations after a disaster. Several areas were addressed immediately including the identification of priority documents; the development of IT backup plans and remote connectivity needs; and the identification of alternate locations and contact lists to maintain business continuity and ensure continued communication. The analysis of operational functions and implementation of mitigation plans is continuing as the planning effort moves forward.
A collections risk assessment is in progress using the Canadian Museum of Nature's Cultural Properties Risk Assessment model. This will allow for prioritization of needs across all collections; a huge task considering the approximately 31million specimens divided between 5 scientific division and stored across 24 interconnected buildings. The assessment is being accomplished as a collaborative effort between science and operations, thus continuing the cross discipline approach to disaster planning.
The Museum's success to date in the disaster recovery / business continuity planning process has been helped by the organizations recognition of the following factors: senior administrative support is critical as such an effort cuts across organizational lines, a cross disciplinary team is required, this is additional work on top of regular duties and schedules must be adjusted accordingly, and the process is continuous.
Courtesy of Heritage Preservation