Smithsonian Institution Staff Disaster Preparedness Procedures

prepared by SI Office of Risk Management, October 1992, revised, October 1993


This handbook provides a brief overview of the types of disasters posing a potential threat to staff. NOTE: This handbook does not contain emergency procedures for cultural items. These emergency procedures are intended to assist individuals in understanding what to expect and what to do initially. The information in this booklet is provided primarily as guidance in the event a disaster occurs at work. However, these same procedures can be applied to situations at home and when traveling.

Should an emergency occur, evacuation of the facility may be necessary. Evacuation routes for facilities should be displayed throughout staff work areas. All personnel should study these procedures carefully.

Emergency Telephone Numbers...

Staff Evacuation Procedures

When evacuation alarm sounds or you are directed to evacuate the facility:

  1. Remain calm.
  2. Shut down all hazardous operations.
  3. Follow instructions.
  4. Assist disabled persons.
  5. Leave the area in an orderly fashion. Close doors, but do not lock.
  6. Follow established evacuation routes.
  7. Move away from the structure. Go directly to the assembly area (map provided with plan). Report to the Evacuation Coordinator for a "head count".
  8. Do not block the street or driveway.
  9. Stay at the assembly area until instructed otherwise.

Assembly Area Locations...


In case of a fire:

  1. Remain calm.
  2. Contact the Fire Department.
  3. If the fire is small, try to extinguish it with the proper type of extinguisher or other method. Do not jeopardize personal safety.
  4. Do not allow the fire to come between you and the exit.
  5. Disconnect electrical equipment if it is on fire and it is safe to do so.
  6. Notify the supervisor and evacuation coordinator, if possible.
  7. Evacuate if you can not extinguish the fire. Assist disabled persons.
  8. Do not break windows.
  9. Do not open a hot door. (Before opening a door, touch it near the top. If it is hot or if smoke is visible, do not open.)
  10. Do not use elevators.
  11. Do not attempt to save possessions.
  12. Go directly to the assembly area
  13. .
  14. Do not return to the affected area until told to by appropriate
  15. authorities.
  16. Do not spread rumors.

Severe Storms

(These first procedures apply to thunderstorms, tornados, hurricanes, etc.)

In the event of a severe storm watch within the surrounding area:

  1. Listen to the local radio/TV or NOAA Weather Radio for instructions.
  2. Plan ahead before the storm arrives.
  3. Tie down loose items located outside or move them indoors.
  4. Open windows slightly, time permitting, on the side away from the direction of the storm's approach.
  5. Check battery-powered equipment and back-up power sources.
  6. Fill vehicles with gas.

In the event of a severe storm warning within the surrounding area:

  1. Disconnect electrical equipment and appliances not required for emergency use.
  2. Do not use telephone except for an emergency or absolutely essential business.
  3. Store drinking water in clean containers (e.g., jugs, bottles, sinks).
  4. Avoid structures with wide span roofs (e.g., gymnasium).
  5. Otherwise, take cover.

Hurricane Warning

  1. Board up windows or protect them with storm shutters or tape. Some should be left slightly open to equalize the pressure.
  2. Leave low-lying areas that may be swept by high tides or storm waves.
  3. Stay in the building if it is sturdy and on high ground. If not - and especially if local authorities order an evacuation - move to a designated shelter.
  4. Remain indoors. Don't be fooled by the calmness of the "eye." Remember, the winds on the other side of the "eye" will come from the opposite direction.
Hurricane Evacuation:
- Follow the instructions of local authorities
- If transportation is provided by local authorities, use it
- If you must walk or drive to another location:
- Leave early enough so as not to be marooned,
- If driving, ensure there is sufficient gas,
- Use recommended routes rather than trying to find
shortcuts, and
-Go to a designated location - don't go anywhere else.

Tornado Warning

  1. Go to the basement, if available, or an interior hallway.
  2. Upper floors are unsafe. If there is no time to descend, go to a closet, a small room with strong walls, or an inside hallway.
  3. Do not remain inside a vehicle. As a last resort, and if no ditch or ravine is nearby, crawl under the vehicle.
  4. If in open country and time permits,