Recent climatic events have forcefully demonstrated how the intensity of natural events such as rainfall, storms and hail can give rise to accumulations of water, creating destructive floods. In addition, intense winds or tornadoes can easily uncover roofs, shatter skylights and windows, uproot trees and cause damage to neighboring homes.
The alteration of the water cycle and temperature as well as the frequency of extreme events such as floods and droughts will increasingly impact our heritage. To meet future challenges, it will be necessary to adopt prevention and safety strategies, starting with the identification of risk scenarios.
But let us see how a collector can implement a plan for hazard assessment, risk mitigation and prioritization by applying it to his or her own collection.
IDENTIFICATION OF RISKS
Geographical, topographical, and climatic conditions are decisive in determining how much a location is at risk, which is why it is always advisable to know the territory in which one lives. One should check on the local hydrogeological hazard of reference and the return timeframe of catastrophic events on risk maps. The insurer can be an excellent interlocutor in this case. Once the environmental and natural risks to a given geographical area, even historically, have been identified, it will be necessary to assess their connection in terms of probability and impact of the event on the location of the risk (building) as well as the items contained therein: identification of water accumulation locations such as underground or basement floors, sloped ramps, or pocket terraces (cut-away roof terrace), solar terraces, confluence of several roof pitches and rainwater drains.
Maintenance and inspection of roofs, gutters, flashings, and skylights should be carried out at least twice a year. Drains must be inspected regularly, as climate change has introduced the phenomena of heavy rainfall concentrated in a few minutes. Therefore, many rainwater disposal systems are now inadequate and undersized.
HOW TO PREPARE
Once the risks have been identified and the possible scenarios have been catalogued (flooding due to heavy rain, flooding due to overflowing watercourses, flooding due to roof leaks or breaches), it will be necessary to undertake preventive activities to mitigate the risks and protect the works of art.
External protection actions will be carried out in relation to the structural characteristics of the building containing the assets to be protected, also in relation to their dislocation. If the works are located on the ground floor it will be necessary to protect them by raising them off the ground, thus preventing contact with water in the event of flooding. But in the case of more serious flooding situations, it would be a good idea to move them to the upper floors of the building in areas identified as safe. For this it will be appropriate to place works on the ground floor that can easily and quickly be moved or works made of materials resistant to water and humidity.
In order to be able to use a rescue order, a list (the list attached to the insurance policy can also be used) of the works to be evacuated, called the Priority List, must be drawn up.
Objects that are impossible to remove either because of their weight/size or because of their large number (e.g. books that make up a library) should be set up from the outset with the 'safe room' concept in mind. For objects that are easy to move, on the other hand, materials for packing them, such as plastic boxes, tyvek, plastic bags, etc., must be prepared well beforehand.
Always remember that in the event of a flood, property will be damaged not only by water, but also by mud, debris, and suspended oil matter.
We do not recommend placing collections of any kind in basements or semi-basements, especially paper materials such as archival/library collections or other assets consisting of organic materials.
In the event of seepage from the roof, one should have plastic material to cover the goods and to set up all the paintings with small spacers from the wall that allow water to percolate down the wall without contact with the work.
At the time of an emergency, the emergency management instructions or evacuation orders issued by the relevant bodies must always be followed. Having a clear prioritization of actions to be taken in an emergency is essential in order not to endanger people's safety.
Here are some useful actions to be performed safely and according to the possibilities of locating objects and their maneuverability:
Author: Cristina Resti, Art Expert and Art Network Manager at ARTE Generali