I’m a pretty brave person. I’ll ride any rollercoaster, squash any bug and once or twice I have handled the occasional bat, but there is one thing in this world that scares me more than anything else in this world (besides Jello… which is irrational, I know, but it’s jewel-toned and jiggly and its slogan for the better part of my childhood was “It’s alive”… like that’s supposed to make me want to eat it?) and that one thing is SNAKES. I am so terrified in fact that I can’t go into pet stores or look at them in books or movies and if, god forbid, I encounter one in the wild I cry like Lindsay Lohan in court. So that is one of the many reasons I love living where I live on the East coast, no poisonous snakes, no earthquakes, minimal flooding. The worst we have to worry about is snow. But then occasionally a natural disaster does strike. Like the tornadoes in Massachusetts yesterday. Now granted, I don’t live very close to where the tornadoes touched down, but when I saw this picture on the news, my first thoughts were of disaster recovery for historic buildings.
The National Trust has a great disaster response page that provides great information on what to do after an emergency.
The best way to deal with any emergency is to create a plan before something unforeseen happens, often including an Historic Structures Report that defines the significant features, materials and finishes embodied in your particular resource. This will help once the process of cleaning up and rebuilding begins. Obviously, there are steps that need to be taken after the disaster hits, too. The most important thing to keep in mind (after life safety, of course) is stabilization of the resource to prevent further damage. In the case of the church above, just from the what I see in the picture, I would recommend bringing in a structural engineer sympathetic to historic buildings to assess the stability of the remaining portion of the tower and the main block of the building, and then cover the steeple in some way to prevent water penetration before the tower can be restored (which is what I would do in this case but there are a number of other options available as well).
Another question many organizations will be asking is how do we pay for this? Property insurance is one funding source, but there maybe other sources of funding available. For example, once a State of Emergency is declared (as Governor Deval Patrick declared in MA), Federal assistance becomes an option. FEMA has some grants, as well as the National Trust. Some states have emergency fund programs, as well.
Well the phones here at Old Stuff, Inc. are ringing now, so I’m out.