Getting Ready for May Day 2014


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It’s that time of year again for archivists–the annual May Day event where we highlight the necessary activities for disaster preparedness. The news is full of disaster that strikes, whether natural or man-made. Once the safety of the people involved is secure, our thoughts as archivists go towards the records–both paper and digital, to ensure that that they are recoverable. Often we are so busy with reference requests, processing, visiting alumni events and classes, that we think we’ll get to the disaster plan later.

“But on May 1 – this year and every year – you can do something that will make a difference when and if an emergency occurs. That’s the purpose of MayDay – a grassroots effort whose goal is to save our archives.” (SAA Website)

We are at the mid-month, so we don’t have long until May 1, but it is plenty of time to plan to do something simple to honor MayDay 2014. Here are some suggestions from SAA:

  1.  Create or Update your Contact Lists.
  2. Review or Establish Basic Emergency Procedures
  3. Conduct a Disaster Drill
  4. Conduct Scenario Exercises
  5. Invite Your Local Firefighters to Visit Your Repository
  6. Survey the Building for Risks
  7. Make Sure All Collections Are in Boxes
  8. Make Sure Boxes Are Off the Floor
  9. Identify the Most Critical, Essential, Important Records
  10. Inventory Emergency Supplies
  11. Review Your Emergency Preparedness Plan
  12. If Your Repository Doesn’t Have an Emergency Preparedness Plan…MayDay is a good time to get started.

On May 1, we will be reviewing our Emergency Preparedness Plan and submitting it to review. In our new Records Retention Schedule, we are noting which records are “vital” in the event of a disaster.

Be sure to see the latest post from HERA, “Disaster Prevention on the Fly,” and if you can, attend the free webinar on Thursday, April 17 at 1:00pm (EST) The Supercharged Management System: Applying the Incident Command System in Cultural Repositories by David Carmichael, ‎Director, Records and Information Management at Atlanta Housing Authority. Here’s the description of the class:

Every cultural repository needs two management structures: the day-to-day, business-as-usual hierarchy, and a “supercharged” management structure that takes over temporarily during a crisis or whenever events threaten to overwhelm normal business routines. Emergency responders have used just such a supercharged structure for years: the Incident Command System (ICS). Whether you are preparing for fires and floods—or planning a major public event—the Incident Command System is a proven management tool that safeguards lives, property, and priceless collections. Learn how to put it to use at your cultural organization!

So be thinking about what activity (or activities) you will be conducting at your school, and send them to SAA at They would like to track who participated, what they did, and how it might help another similar institution. Be sure to also post in the comments here what you did at your school. Maybe we can get our list to grow every MayDay!


  • Heritage Preservation National Task Force: Includes links to resources, both online and in print, in preparing and responding to disasters.
  • Watch Heritage Preservation’s Facebook page for weekly disaster preparedness tips throughout the month of May.
  • HP’s Alliance for Response: Alliance for Response is a national program on cultural heritage and disaster management. Through a series of local Forums, it builds bridges between the cultural heritage and emergency response communities before disasters happen. Find a group near you!

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