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Recovering from Natural Disasters: Helping Museum Employees Return to Workplace Normalcy

Thesis by Amanda Benson (2016)

This study evaluated how museums help their employees return to workplace normalcy after a natural disaster affects their institution and professional lives, and to address what policies they used to facilitate this transition. The study focused on three key policies: disaster/emergency preparedness plans, business continuity plans, and employee assistance programs (EAPs). Recently, the museum field has pushed for their organizations to develop and implement a disaster preparedness plan as a core institutional policy. While museum disaster preparedness plans are effective in encompassing mitigation, response, and recovery actions for artifacts, they rarely include guidelines for how museum employees are regarded during the recovery phase of the disaster plan. Natural disasters create high levels of stress which can affect worker productivity, and can lead to high employee absenteeism and turnover. Business continuity plans and EAPs can offer a means to address this thesis, as employees are considered a mission-critical resource. A questionnaire was sent to 80 midsize, California museums in the Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco Bay areas. The majority of museums (79%) indicated that they had a disaster preparedness plan in place, but not a business continuity plan (14%) or an employee assistance program (30%). Results concluded that museums are not utilizing these policies to help employees return to workplace normalcy.


Keywords: research, natural disasters, museum staff, health, business continuity, disaster planning, emergency management


Benson, A. (2016). Recovering from Natural Disasters: Helping museum employees return to workplace normalcy (Order No. 10138532). Available from Dissertations & Theses @ University of Washington WCLP; ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (1804414295). Retrieved from