Business continuity planning for museums and galleries

Guidance from DCMS on how museums, galleries and other public buildings can prepare for an emergency or disaster.


A business continuity plan (BCP) is a documented strategy for avoiding or minimising adverse impacts on your business operation should a disaster or failure occur.

This guidance on business continuity planning is for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s sponsored bodies.

Benefits of business continuity planning

Effective business continuity planning (BCP) ensures an organisation is prepared for emergencies or disasters. By limiting damage and having a recovery plan, disruption to normal operations can be kept to a minimum.

For museums and galleries, the BCP might include a list of exhibits in order of importance, and have a dedicated recovery team available to evacuate those exhibits to a safe location in the event of an incident.

In the event of a major catastrophe, for example nuclear war, a different response would be required. Carrying out a risk assessment as part of creating the BCP ensures appropriate measures would be in place.

Alternatives to commercial insurance

Public bodies are not normally permitted to take out commercial insurance. The civil service estate covers a vast number of buildings and assets, and no insurance could cover its estate adequately. Instead, civil service buildings are covered by the Government Indemnity Scheme.

The scheme also covers the contents of national museums and art galleries, where insurance costs would normally be prohibitive.

A similar situation exists for smaller museums that house items of national importance. Trying to insure those exhibits would prove costly and potentially ineffective (as the artefacts themselves are usually irreplaceable).

Evacuation plans

The decision to evacuate items from a museum or gallery should be made by public bodies themselves, not DCMS. This process should be considered through the risk management process, including an assessment of the likelihood of an incident which would trigger the evacuation.

A full evacuation of ‘national treasures’ might only be necessary - or practicable - if war were declared, as there would at least be time to carry out an organised evacuation.

In the event of sudden nuclear, biological or chemical attack, little warning would be given. It is unlikely there would be time for an organised evacuation. In addition, the building(s) would need to be evacuated and decontaminated, which would require a security presence. Guarding specific items may be necessary 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.

Information systems security

Organisations which use electronic information systems should have security measures in place to protect their data from threats including system failure, natural disaster and cyber-crime.

We publish Information security guidance for sponsored bodies, which offers guidance on introducing and managing secure systems.

More guidance is available as follows:

You can contact the following for further information:

Keeping staff records

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.

Collaborative working group

We have set up a group to share and promote best practice and procedures around evacuation, conservation and restoration of national art treasures.

For more details or to register, please contact Gerry Boulton:

Registered individuals and organisations can visit the Emergency planning group web pages (password required).


The following documents (Microsoft Word format) contain guidance on completing forms and templates listed in the next section:

Forms and templates


Workshop materials

We run regular workshops with our public bodies to help them develop individual business continuity plans.

These workshops explore the 5 stages set out in the Business continuity planning guide (PDF 938kb) which explains how to introduce and maintain a business continuity plan.

The aim of the workshops is to give participants an individual, quality-tested business continuity plan in place to protect the business interests of their organisation.

The main materials used are available for download as follows:

Published 27 February 2013