Disaster Response & Recovery

NHR Frequently Asked Questions

What type of help can NHR provide?

The National Heritage Responders (NHR) - formerly AIC-CERT -  is a volunteer program designed to assist collecting institutions on an emergency basis.  Team members can provide advice and referrals by phone or by email.  Onsite assistance, as funds are available, typically is limited to one or two days of assessment, organization of salvage efforts, and recommendations for follow-up care of affected collections.  Larger scale salvage or treatment of damaged items should normally be done by paid professionals – insurance or government emergency funds are typically available to support these kinds of post-disaster needs. 

How can I become a National Heritage Responder?

FAIC offered training sessions in 2007 and 2011, with the support of grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).  From experience, we know that teamwork and the ability to coordinate efforts during stressful situations is extremely important, so consistent, group-based training is essential.  Such hands-on training is also expensive, so outside funding will be necessary in order to offer such training in the future.

My personal collection was affected by a disaster.  Can you help me?

 NHR members are happy to provide advice to individuals as well as institutions.  We do not normally provide on-site assistance to individuals, although it may be possible to do so in conjunction with other collections in an affected region.

What does it cost to use NHR services?

There is no cost to the affected institution.  NHR members volunteer their expertise and time; FAIC supports their travel costs.  The host institution may need to purchase supplies for re-housing or drying of collections.

Where do the funds come from?

The initial training of the NHR teams in 2007 was funded by a grant to FAIC by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).  IMLS later allowed an extension and expansion of that grant to support deployment of team members and purchase of supplies in Iowa and Galveston in 2008. A second IMLS grant funded additional training in 2011, continued training for existing team members, and outreach to the museum community.  FAIC raises funds from individuals, corporations, and foundations to pay for administration and travel costs.

We invite you to support this important resource for America’s collections. Although team members volunteer their time, FAIC must pay for their travel, lodging, meals, and supplies, as well as the overall management of the program. Please click here to make your contribution by credit card, or mail your check (made payable to FAIC) to:

 National Heritage Responders
1556 15th Street NW, Suite 320
Washington, DC 20005

FAIC is a 501(c)(3) foundation organized to undertake and underwrite programs and initiatives to advance the conservation profession in all its facets, to support conservation education and career development, and to apply the expertise of the profession in addressing the nation’s artistic, cultural, and historic preservation priorities. Contributions are fully tax-deductible as allowed by law.

Who are on the National Heritage Responders?

Over 270 collections care professionals applied for training.  The 107 members selected come from a wide variety of backgrounds.  About two-thirds are trained as conservators in various specialty areas, from book and paper to wooden artifacts; other members include librarians, archivists, curators, registrars, and other collections care specialists.  For on-site assistance, a team of two or three members with appropriate specialties will typically work together

Did the volunteers get training?

Yes.  All team members undertook a 5-day training program that covered incident command systems (ICS), health and safety considerations, salvage techniques, and simulations for phone and onsite responses.  In addition, team members were required to complete ICS training through FEMA, have current respirator fit testing, and maintain inoculations for tetanus and hepatitis.

For how long can a team be at my institution?

There is no set length of time, but typical deployments are three to four days in length, with visits to several institutions scheduled within that time.  One or two days per institution is normal.

Can you provide treatment work on damaged collections?

That is usually beyond the scope of our volunteer work.  Beyond immediate “triage” steps that may be possible by NHR teams, treatment should be done by a paid conservator.  You can locate a conservator with the necessary expertise by using the “Find a Conservator” database on the AIC website.

I need an estimate of the damage to our collections in order to file an insurance or FEMA claim.  Can you help?

Yes, NHR teams have trained in assessment techniques and use a specially-developed assessment system.  These reports can be used by your institution to generate an estimate of restoration or replacement costs.

Where can I find reliable information to conduct my own salvage of collections?

You will find links to this kind of information, as well as links to other sources, on the AIC website, at www.conservation-us.org/disaster

Is there a directory of NHR members?

In order to protect the time of our volunteers, we do not offer a public directory of NHR members.  However, by contacting NHR by phone or email, we can refer you to a NHR member with the expertise and availability to assist in your particular situation.

How fast can NHR respond?

The NHR hotline is available 24/7, although you may not always reach a volunteer immediately.  If a team member is available near your location, he or she may be able to make a site visit within hours.  On-site team visits typically require at 2 to 3 days to arrange.  In most regional disasters, civil authorities (rightly) give priority to public health and safety and to infrastructure, so it is often several days before even employees of an institution can gain safe access to their buildings.

For 24-hour assistance, call (202) 661-8068

Less urgent questions can also be answered by emailing info@conservation-us.org.

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