From the Archives

When Disaster Strikes - Preparing Organizations for Emergencies

"Since the events of September 11, 2001, effective emergency management has become a higher priority for the cultural community. More institutions are interested in developing disaster plans, providing staff training, and better protecting their collections." -- from the introduction to Before and After Disasters

When Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma hit the Gulf Coast, affected arts organizations were able to quickly access culture and arts specific federal emergency funding guidelines via the free publication Before and After Disasters: Federal Funding for Cultural Institutions. Designed for cultural institutions and historical sites, the 32-page resource provides details on how cultural organizations can apply for federal funding to support disaster planning, prevention, and recovery efforts.

The publication is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), growing out of discussions by the Heritage Emergency National Task Force, a partnership of more than 40 federal agencies and national service organizations focused on making emergency management a high priority issue in the cultural community. Before and After Disasters was compiled by Heritage Preservation, a national nonprofit advocate for conservation and preservation efforts. The brochure was first published as Federal Aid for Cultural Institutions During an Emergency, and updated in 2000 under the title Resources for Recovery: Post-Disaster Aid for Cultural Institutions.

The brochure profiles eight federal agencies' grant or loan programs, listing eligible activities, the award amount or loan terms, and a sample project. Also included is a list of online expert resources for disaster preparedness, response, and recovery.

The current edition expands upon its predecessors, highlighting nearly double the number of federal funding programs, and providing greater detail about available funding options. For example, the NEA section explicates the agency's Extraordinary Action grants, which are discretionary grants given in response to emergency situations. After Hurricane Charley, for instance, the Arts & Humanities Council of Charlotte County, Florida, received an NEA grant of $10,000 to help artists and cultural organizations replace art, studio space, and supplies destroyed by the hurricane.

Unlike previous versions, Before and After Disasters also includes funding opportunities for disaster preparedness and mitigation. An example of this type of project is the NEA's grant of $15,000 to the Craft Emergency Relief Fund in Vermont to add disaster preparation information to the Fund's Web site for craft artists.

More than 3,000 copies of Before and After Disasters were distributed following the 2005 Gulf Coast hurricanes, many of them sent directly to the FEMA Joint Field Offices in Louisiana and Mississippi. The publication is also available for download from cultural agencyWeb sites, including Heritage Preservation (http://www. heritagepreservation.org/PDFS/Disaster.pdf) and the National Endowment for the Arts (http://www.arts.gov/pub/index.php). Heritage Preservation reports that more than 15,000 copies have been downloaded from its Web site.