Every arts organization, as well as individual, should have a basic checklist that you can use to help guide your emergency and disaster planning.

Get ready now!

  • Make a kit of emergency supplies that include water, food, clothes and a sleeping bag.
  • Make a plan for what you will do in an emergency. Consider developing a communications plan/phone tree. How will you contact family, staff, etc.?  Also, create a plan to shelter-in-place as well as evacuation plan.
  • Be Informed. Learn how to prepare to react in all types of emergencies: natural, manmade, and other. Getting staff trained in CPR and First Aid is not always a legal requirement for every organization, but it’s always a good idea.
  • Get involved in preparing your community, after preparing yourself and your organization for possible emergencies

Be Prepared!

  • Track oncoming storms via the National Hurricane Center: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/
  • Familiarize yourself with the disaster declaration process in case one is declared for your state: https://www.fema.gov/disaster-declaration-process
  • Gather your staff and review your disaster plan today. No disaster plan? Put that at the top of the to-do list once the emergency passes (and hope you didn’t need it this time).
  • ArtsReady has some tools you can use to prepare.
  • If you have a disaster plan, make sure everyone has a printed copy to take home. An electronic version may be useless if you lose power.
  • Review individual or family plans. You’ll feel better attending to your organization knowing that your loved ones are safe.
  • Make sure staff, volunteer, and board contact lists are up to date. Determine how you will communicate with one another before, during, and after the storm.
  • Make sure your insurance and disaster recovery vendor contact information is readily available.
  • If you don’t already have up-to-date images (photographic/video) of your facility’s exterior and interior, including storage areas, now’s the time to take them. Being able to illustrate how your building and collections looked before damage will be helpful if the need arises to pursue recovery financing. 
  • Back up electronic records and store the back-ups off-site or in the cloud.
  • Secure outdoor furniture, bike racks, book drops, etc.—anything that can become a projectile in strong winds.
  • Move collections that are in areas vulnerable to flooding—i.e., the floor, the basement—or susceptible to rain—near windows or under roofs.
  • If you have time, cut lengths of plastic sheeting to be able to throw them over shelves or equipment should the building envelope be compromised.
  • Know the location and shut-off procedures for water, electricity, and gas.
  • Download the free ERS: Emergency Response and Salvage app, based on the Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel.
  • Keep this 24/7 hotline number handy: 202.661.8068. The National Heritage Responders, a team of trained conservators and collections care professionals, are available 24/7 to provide advice.
  • For tips on what to do before, during, and after a hurricane, go to https://www.ready.gov/hurricanes.
  • Download FEMA’s “After the Flood: Advice for Salvaging Damaged Family Treasures” fact sheet, with tips and resources for individuals and institutions.


  • ArtsReady offers specific readiness planning for arts organizations  
  • Studio Protector delivers specific readiness planning for artists.
  • The National Coalition for Emergency Preparedness developed The Essential Guidelines for Arts Responders, an immediate resource to help you determine your organization's response and work in the weeks ahead. It is an abridged version of a longer, more detailed handbook (now in development) that will be designed to help local and state arts agencies, organizations, foundations, and other arts groups plan and administer a coordinated disaster mobilization system within their service area.
  • For a comprehensive and complete set of emergency resources for artists, check out the Craft Emergency Relief Fund.
  • "Are You Prepared?" was an Americans For the Arts webinar from 2013 designed to help you prepare for a disaster..

Profile in Preparedness

Since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, the Mississippi Arts Commission has been working to support and assist our artists and art organizations in preparing for future disasters.  In 2011, the Commission developed a planning tool for organizations in Mississippi.  It is easy to use and a good example of a planning document.  

Post-Disaster Community Projects & Engagement: Monmouth County, NJ

Hurricane Sandy left Monmouth County Reeling

After Hurricane Sandy devastated Monmouth County, NJ, the arts community responded by not focusing on their own needs, but first focusing on their community’s needs.  Two River Theater and County Basie Theatre became recharging stations for people and electronics.  Middletown Arts Center created a new program for students until the student’s schools were reopened.  The Monmouth County Arts Council’s efforts became ArtHelps, which included an Indiegogo campaign to support community arts projects in the hardest hit towns.  Monmouth County Arts Council also joined the Monmouth County Long Term Recovery Group to ensure the arts were represented in ongoing recovery efforts.  The creative community continues to play an important role in helping Monmouth County to process its loss, create hope for the future, and envision a stronger and more resilient New Jersey.


Post-Disaster Community Projects & Engagement: New Orleans, LA

Evacuation Reaction

New Orleans has developed a new way of highlighting its emergency evacuation route thru the use of public art. While about 18,000 residents utilized the City Assisted Evacuation Plan during Hurricane Katrina, many residents had little idea of where the pickup points were since they were marked by small, unnoticeable placards with a lot of text. The Arts Council of New Orleans collaborated with the locally based organization Evacuteer.org to find creative ways to help residents locate the pickup evacuation points. They issued a call to artists for sculptures to mark 15 of the 17 Evacuspots dotted about the city. Artist Doug Kornfeld was selected for his iconic figurative forms that were friendly and universally understandable. It was important that all residents—no matter their primary language or literacy level—would know where to go in the case of emergency. The figures are already becoming a recognizable symbol, and the city has even allowed Kornfeld to distribute more than 300 pins of the figurines for transit drivers to wear on their uniforms.


Post-Disaster Community Projects & Engagement: Fargo, ND

Reacting Creatively

Fargo sits along the banks of the Red River, and in 2009, this river reached 40.82 feet during a massive flood that left the town significantly damaged. In 2011, when another massive flood was threatening, the citizens of Fargo began working to fill three million sandbags to be ready to prevent another massive flood. Instead of the typical burlap or mesh sandbag, Michael Strand, an associate professor and Ceramics Department head at North Dakota State University, created the Sandbag Art Project. Realizing that many Fargo residents were unable to help with sandbagging due to illness, disability, age, etc., Strand worked with the city to bring sandbags to these people so they could help by decorating them with encouraging notes and drawings. The response was wonderful. Volunteers filling sandbags were encouraged and entertained as they pulled out each sandbag with a different decoration. What a great way to see how the arts can impact a community during a crisis!