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Sunday, May 15 • 11:00am - 11:30am
(General Session) When disaster mitigation is a priority: Evidence from risk analysis of rare events

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Since resources are always limited, disaster risks, which are by nature rare events, may not get enough attention until the disaster occurs. Recent comprehensive risk assessment projects conducted by the Canadian Conservation Institute have shed light on the magnitude of risks such as fire, water leaks, floods and tornado relative to loss of value due to other agents. In this paper we present the results of generalized risk analyses that clarify not simply the common-sense notion that different places have different disaster risks, but that under certain conditions these may become priority risks relative to all the other risks facing the collection. Risk analysis in these situations relies on incidence and severity data that may be organized geographically, or by type of building, or often both. Analysis also depends on models developed by experts that relate the presence or absence of various features and behaviours (levels of control) in a building with the degree of damage to the contents. Specific examples we will describe include the following. Flood risk becomes a priority if collections are stored below grade in locations at high risk of overland flooding once in 1000 years or more frequently. Physical damage due to storms becomes a priority risk in many building types in regions at risk of Category 3-5 hurricanes and EF4-5 tornadoes even when the chance of a direct hit is small. Earthquakes become priority risks in non-seismically stable buildings in regions experiencing earthquakes categorized as zone 4 in the Munich Re world map. Fire risk is high for collections even in fire resistive buildings unless fire suppression is present throughout and there is on-site security presence 24 hours daily. When risks are high, mitigation is highly recommended. Reducing the risk due to rare and potentially disastrous events has three stages: reducing the likelihood of the hazard in the first place (preferable, if possible), reducing the exposure of susceptible collections during the event, and preparing an effective response and recovery that one can implement after the event. Cost-benefit analysis demonstrates the effectiveness of even high cost facility upgrades, even though museums may consider disaster risks as “too rare” to warrant action. For hazards where avoidance and blocking are not feasible, cost-benefit analysis of respond and recover options can also show the effectiveness of preparing for the unexpected.

avatar for Irene Karsten

Irene Karsten

Preservation Development Advisor, Canadian Conservation Institute
Irene Karsten has an MSc (1998) and PhD (2003) in Human Ecology with specialization in textile conservation science from the University of Alberta (Edmonton) as well as a Diploma in Art Conservation Techniques (1994) from Fleming College in Peterborough, Ontario. She was the Conservator... Read More →

avatar for Stefan Michalski

Stefan Michalski

Senior Conservation Scientist, Preservation Services, Canadian Conservation Institute
Stefan Michalski earned a B.Sc. (Hons) in Physics and Mathematics (1972), trained as a conservator in the Queen's University Master of Art Conservation program, and then joined the Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) in 1979. During his career, he has initiated the development of... Read More →

Sunday May 15, 2016 11:00am - 11:30am EDT
Room 210 AB/EF