Disaster preparedness

NAVA joins colleague organisations in promoting disaster planning and awareness as part of International Day of Disaster Risk Reduction #DRRDay

Five line drawn graphics in black on white background. The first one is a flame, next a person in a face-mask, a lightning cloud, a person on crutches with a broken leg, and a gust of wind.

Artists and arts organisations should be prepared for emergencies and disasters whether their workplace is at home, in a shared space or a stand-alone building. When it comes to disasters, we need strategies that address not just hazards like flood, storm or fire, but those that respond to systematic risk by disease, climate shocks and environmental breakdown. These events will impact on your ability to continue your practice and your business.


The best way to protect yourself and your business from financial loss due to disaster is insurance. Different types of insurance to consider are:

  • Accident, injury or sickness – insurance policies can help cover medical costs and lost income due to an accident, injury or illness that prevents you from working. NAVA’s Premium Plus Membership includes a Personal Accident insurance policy which provides an income replacement if you are unable to work due to injury.
  • Contents – you may want to cover the cost of the contents of your studio including your computer, equipment and materials if it were lost due to theft, fire, flood or storm.
  • Artwork – you may want to cover just the artworks in your possession rather than the whole contents of your studio, particularly if each work is worth more than the single item value limit on a contents insurance policy.

Artists will need to weight up the benefits, costs and risks when it comes to deciding whether to take out an insurance policy. Another option may be to save up for a disaster rather than paying for an insurance policy so that you do have some cash available for emergencies.

Risk management

Whether you are taking out an insurance policy or not you should be managing the risks in your workspace and your business. These may be the day to day risks such as a fall from a ladder, tripping over, fumes from materials or just sitting at a desk for too long. But you should also be managing other eventualities such as emergencies due to a fire, threat, theft or injury, or disasters such as flood, storm, bushfire, earthquake, or disease.

See NAVA’s risk management guide for more information on managing risk and creating a risk assessment.

The big question to ask is what is the risk of these kinds of disasters happening to me and how am I going to manage these risks to attempt to ensure a minimal amount of damage to me, my practice, my finances and my business? Once you have some answers, write them down and take action.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • What happens if I am unable to work for an extended period of time due to injury or illness?
  • What happens if I am unable to access my workspace for an extended period of time?
  • How can I prevent water damage in my workspace?
  • How can I prevent fire damage in my workspace?
  • How can I protect the contents of my workspace from theft?
  • What happens if the entire contents of my workspace is lost?

Being prepared

In managing emergency and disaster risks you will need to undertake some preparation so that you are either limiting the impact of a risk or outlining the actions you will take should that risk become a reality.

Some actions you can take to mitigate risk are:

  • Having an emergency pack of important information with emergency contact details, evacuation information and medical information.
  • Writing out step by step what you need to do in an emergency or particular situation – an Emergency Procedures Manual.
  • Keeping important documents somewhere safe (a safe/fireproof box) and in more than one place if possible.
  • Back up all your electronic files! See NAVA’s storing data and maintaining digital assets guide for more information on options.
  • Prepare your workspace if you know a storm, flood or fire is coming. This could be as simple as packing items away and not leaving anything on the floor in case of flood due to a storm or having another safe location to store your most valuable items if needed.
  • Have routine actions to help prevent loss due to unforeseen events such as taking home all portable valuables when you leave your studio to reduce loss from theft, or maintaining electrical equipment and wiring to reduce the chance of an electrical fire.
  • If possible, put money aside as an emergency fund, even if you have insurance. An emergency fund can help cover the cost of items that need to be replaced, or act as an income replacement if your ability to earn an income changes. Insurance policies won’t cover all situations and a pay out of funds will not be immediate.