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Heritage Emergency and Response Training (HEART)

In 2015 the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative (SCRI) became the co-sponsor, with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Office of Environmental Planning and Historic Preservation (OEHP), of the Heritage Emergency National Task Force (HENTF), a public-private partnership created to protect our nation’s cultural heritage. Both SCRI and OEHP are committed to expanding training for cultural stewards, first responders, and emergency managers to better prepare them to work together to address emergencies and disasters that affect cultural institutions and historic sites.

With funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, HENTF has created a training opportunity for U.S. professionals to gain skills and experience in disaster response for cultural heritage. Heritage Emergency and Response Training, known as HEART, combines the best practices of internationally recognized training models with context specific information for a U.S. audience. This approach bolsters the U.S. disaster response network and connects participants to the global “First Aider” network of people trained to document and protect cultural heritage in times of crisis.

Since launching in 2017, HEART has trained 200+ participants representing a wide variety of specialties and fields. HEART graduates hail from cultural heritage institutions who wish to improve their collections management plans and first responder groups who want a better understanding of how cultural heritage helps communities recover following a disaster. Though the main HEART program is based in D.C., it has traveled to disaster-affected regions such as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to help cultural stewards prepare for upcoming hurricane seasons.

The Training Structure

The course consists of three parts. Accepted applicants will be required, before the start of the program, to complete FEMA’s online course “Introduction to the Incident Command System (ICS 100).” Participants then travel to Washington, DC, for a week of hands-on training at the Smithsonian Institution. Sessions provide realistic training in damage assessment, rapid documentation, emergency evacuation and salvage, rehousing and storage, crisis communication, team building, and more. At the conclusion of the training, participants are invited to attend a HEART webinar series that builds upon the in-person training, and reinforces concepts covered in previous trainings.

Expected Outcomes

At the end of a HEART training, participants will be able to:

  • Assess and manage risks to cultural heritage in emergency situations
  • Explore the values associated with cultural heritage and the impact that disasters (natural and man-made) have on these values
  • Improve existing disaster plans at their organization or agency, or on behalf of other organizations or agencies
  • Take preventive actions to reduce disaster risk and improve response
  • Secure, salvage, and stabilize a variety of cultural materials
  • Train and manage a response team to implement effective actions during crises that affect cultural heritage
  • Communicate successfully with the various actors, including the media, involved in an emergency response
  • Identify relevant programs and services that can assist cultural heritage organizations in the event of a disaster
  • Understand how first aid for cultural heritage supports recovery in affected communities and how it fits into the federal National Planning Frameworks

Who is this training for?

Through a competitive selection process the course team will select 25 participants from cultural heritage and first responder/emergency management organizations or agencies who work in the United States, U.S. territories, or Indian Country. Since the successful recovery of heritage collections is based on collaboration among many different types of professionals, the goal of HEART is to train a group with diverse backgrounds. Therefore both cultural heritage professionals and first responder/emergency management professionals are encouraged to apply for the training.

We seek heritage professionals who:

  • Work at or for a cultural heritage institution that has a disaster plan for collections and that supports training in disaster planning/cultural heritage protection;
  • Might have previously faced an emergency situation that called for an immediate response to safeguard cultural heritage, whether at their own institution or assisting another; and/or
  • Are actively engaged in their communities and/or professional or heritage-related associations.

We seek first responders and emergency management professionals who:

  • Might have responded to an emergency situation that called for an immediate response to safeguard cultural heritage;
  • Are motivated to increase their knowledge of the concerns and priorities of cultural stewards;
  • Are eager to share what they learn at this training with their colleagues; and/or
  • Want to bolster their understanding of how cultural heritage can help communities recover and become more resilient following a disaster, and how their collaboration with cultural stewards contributes to this effort.

Application Process

The HEART 2023 program has concluded. HEART 2024 is tentatively scheduled for early December in Washington DC. The official dates and call for applications will be announced at the beginning of September 2024. Please watch this space and our social media for more information.

HEART Training Network

Each dot represents the location of a HEART participant's institution
A map of North America has 100 green dots indicating locations of the SCRI training network. The markers appear in many of the 50 states, but not all, and some states, such as California have multiple dots. Other states include: Washington, Oregon, Montana, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Maine, Vermont, New Jersey, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina. A marker is in Alberta Canada, another in the North Pacific Ocean and two more are by Puerto Rico.