Department for Culture Media and Sport

frequently asked questions

1. Public bodies are not normally permitted to take out commercial insurance.

2. Prior to war being declared in 1939 plans were put in place for the evacuation of national treasures from the National Gallery. Other smaller museums were able to share this facility thereby demonstrating best practice etc.

3. Deatils currently held on premises do not include those for temporary volunteer/ self employed people, or consultants.




Answers:

1. Public bodies are not normally permitted to take out commercial insurance.

  • Is the "do nothing" option in the event of a major disaster a decision for DCMS / Treasury to take?

This question is of special concern to smaller museums. The Civil Service Estate covers a vast number of buildings, national treasures etc. and no insurance could cover its estate adequately.

As a result, and because of its huge size, it can effectively cover itself; civil service buildings are covered by "Government indemnity". The same applies to the contents of museums and art galleries. For instance the National Gallery could never insure its collection, and even if it could the insurance costs would be prohibitive.

A similar situation will exist for smaller museums that also house artefacts etc. of national importance. Trying to ensure those exhibits would prove costly and ineffective (as once the artefacts cannot be replaced).

The only way to effectively insure such a building and its contents is through an effective BCP and recovery mechanism. This might prioritise the safety of exhibits in order of importance, and develop a dedicated recovery team available 24/7 to evacuate those exhibits to a safe location, in the event of an incident.

Concerns about possible catastrophic incidents, specifically in London, present a different set of complications. Were London to be evacuated because of a chemical, nuclear or biological attack, the biggest problem would be from potential looting. Risk assessment will help strengthen the robustness of the given security company etc. in response to such an event.

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2. Prior to war being declared in 1939 plans were put in place for the evacuation of national treasures from the National Gallery. Other smaller museums were able to share this facility thereby demonstrating best practice etc.

  • What level of threat would there have to be before DCMS considered / advised evacuation?
  • Would this instruction have to be in the event of a declaration of war?
  • Should there be plans for such an eventuality?

DCMS would not be able to take the decision concerning the evacuation of paintings etc. to a more secure environment.

This decision should be made by public bodies themselves, and clearly addressed through the risk management process. This should also assess the likelihood of an incident / event forcing such action to be taken.

A full evacuation might only be necessary - or practicable - were war to be declared, as there would at least be time to effect an organised evacuation.

As for sudden nuclear, biological or chemical attack, little warning would be given so there would be little time for an organised evacuation of national treasures to a safer area. The building(s) would need to be evacuated and decontaminated, which would require a security presence. 

National treasures will require protection from looting due to the lack of policing in the contaminated environment. It may be useful for public bodies to co-operate on a mutually beneficial solution.

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3. Deatils currently held on premises do not include those for temporary volunteer/ self employed people, or consultants.

  • Who would deal with the next of kin / staff in the event of total destruction and loss of personnel/records in small institutions?

Employers have a duty of care to their staff. They should possess next-of-kin data for all permanent, casual and temporary members of staff.

A copy of this information might be kept off-site in case of a disaster. However, this information must be kept in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998. Written agreement will be needed to keep anyone's details in this way.


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