It’s that time of the year again. No, not Christmas or any other major holiday, rather on June 1st our part of the country sees the start of hurricane season. While this might not seem all that exciting to other portions of the country, down here in South Florida hurricane season is a time of year met with some anxiety. In 2005, South Florida was hit with storm after storm, one of which plowed its way across the everglades causing extensive damage to the Big Cypress Reservation. So what does this matter to those of us who work behind the scenes in the Collections Division of the Museum? Besides creating hurricane kits and preparing our homes for the possibility of storms, the Collections Division staff also finds itself creating kits and preparing plans for the rescue and stabilization of the galleries and collection storage areas found at the Museum. One of the main ways in which we prepare for the possibility of being impacted by a storm is to run training sessions, for example our Emergency Preparedness, Response and Salvage in Museum Collections workshop held in February 2010.
Besides going through training, Collections staff also needed to prepare kits in order to deal with any disasters that might occur. Unlike the hurricane kits possibly kept in your home, our museum disaster kits contain items such as nitrile gloves, masks, caution tape, and many different absorbent materials that will help us deal with any water type disaster. Our disaster kits are also kept in rolling carts that can be moved around the property and brought to the site of the disaster itself.
Another large part of hurricane preparedness is planning. In 2005, when Hurricane Wilma cut across the everglades, portions of the roof were torn from the main Museum building. This caused water to pour into the Museum, which in turn damaged some of mannequins currently on display. Most of the damage was minor and quickly fixed, but Museum staff realized that if another category 5 storm would hit the Museum action had to be taken. In conjunction with a mold mitigation project that occurred in 2007, the staff devised a plan to de-install all of the mannequins and artifacts currently on display in the 5500 square feet of gallery space. After a months work of planning and testing, the staff can now de-install and secure the entire gallery in one day.
Since the very active hurricane season of 2005, South Florida has not been hit by any hurricanes. But a major mistake many South Florida residents fall into is the idea that since the past few years have seen no storms, we can become lax in our preparation and planning for this year’s season. It is one of our major responsibilities as residents of this particular region to always be on watch and prepared for the next major storm.