Small, localized emergencies and large-scale disasters continue with alarming frequency and impact as the climate changes. Additionally, the potential for mistakes, negligence, and crime is ever present. Disaster preparedness must be a concern for all individuals and institutions that create or collect content with long-term value. Though disasters may be relatively infrequent, their impact can be devastating, with the potential for total loss of material. Even the simplest response or recovery plan can be highly effective if it is practiced and understood by all stakeholders. Doing something is always better than doing nothing when it comes to emergency preparedness.
This chapter has outlined many emergency preparedness and response basics that have been tried, tested, and improved by those experienced with disaster response and recovery of audio and other media over the years. However, these are only general guidelines. Always remember that the cause, circumstances, and context of each disaster will vary greatly. Guides like this one provide a general playbook but can’t answer every question. Again, it is critical to have contact details for emergency response agencies (e.g. FEMA), experts, insurance, and others, so that these groups can be contacted as early as possible and guide you through the dos and don’ts of your particular situation.
Finally, as has been noted in several places in this chapter, the digitization of valuable audiovisual content and proper management of digital collections are two of the most important disaster preparedness steps you can take. A well-managed digital archive with proper intellectual control, backup, and geographic separation will always fare better in a disaster than will unique analog materials. An added benefit is that digitization, already necessary for most analog formats today, will best position the collection for long-term preservation and improved access.