emergency preparedness

The snowstorms last winter had a devastating impact on arts and cultural organizations, resulting in canceled performances and lost ticket income in the height of the holiday season, when traditional shows provide a substantial portion of many groups’ annual earned revenue.

Were you prepared for the snows last year? Did you have an effective way to communicate with ticket buyers about the status of your productions? Did your staff know whether or not to report to work in the case of extreme weather?

pigNow is the time to prepare for the next disaster. You can’t turn on the news today without hearing about the spread of H1N1 virus, commonly known as swine flu. And, if you live or work in south King County, you are hearing about the potential failure of the 40-year old Howard Hanson Dam and the severe flooding that could occur throughout the lower Green River Valley, affecting Auburn, Kent, Renton and Tukwila.

I attended a meeting this morning with a number of key leaders in the cultural community. We are sufficiently concerned about the need for emergency preparedness that we are convening a meeting at Seattle University (tentatively scheduled for October 21st from 2 – 4pm *SEE UPDATE BELOW*) for arts and heritage workers to learn more about how to better prepare for the next emergency. We will be joined by experts from King County Public Health and Emergency Management who will help us develop plans to deal with whatever comes next. I’ll update this blog post when we have the date confirmed. Please check back for further information.

All cultural organizations should have plans to deal with emergencies. In preparation for possible winter flooding in south King County, 4Culture is already removing portable artwork from the Regional Justice Center in Kent, and spreading the word to cultural organizations about resources that may be available to them to be safe and prepared to preserve their facilities and collections.

I must admit that 4Culture was not as prepared to deal with last December’s storms as I thought we were, resulting in staff and constituent confusion about whether our downtown Seattle office was open.

The storm was a wake-up call, but relatively speaking, may be a minor event in view of the health hazard presented by a swine flu pandemic. As many of you know, H1N1 is expected to affect 30%-50% of the population.

Is your organization prepared for snow, flood, flu and other potential disasters? Now is the time to make plans. I hope you will join us for the meeting later this month. If you can’t make it, here are a couple of links to information about how to prepare:



Jim Kelly

P.S. Thanks to Dwight Gee, Kevin Maifield, David Brown, Elaine Cummins and Kevin Hughes for their efforts to make sure we survive the next calamity, which we hope will never come.

Pig photo courtesy of Brent and MariLynn on flickr

UPDATE (10/15/09):

The Emergency Prep Meeting is set for Wednesday, October 21, 2009, 2 – 4pm.
You can read more in this recent blog post
Location: Pigott Auditorium – Seattle University Campus, 901 12th Avenue
Registration: http://prepared.eventbrite.com/
Contact: Kevin Maifeld at maifeldk@seattleu.edu