Following the information about the Government Indemnity Scheme and relaxation of the lower temperature requirement to help venues turn down the dial on their heating this winter, this is some follow-on advice from the GIS Environmental Adviser about possible winter blackouts. All of the security points already circulated as advice from the National Security and Protection Manager apply to environmental control systems and monitoring equipment (Read this advice).
It is important to distinguish between rolling black-outs as currently being considered by the National Grid, and power cuts due to adverse weather conditions. The latter are ideally covered by disaster preparedness plans and measures that museums have in place already.
The rolling black-outs will be announced in advance, and it is therefore possible to prepare for them.
The brief periods without control (c 3-hour slots are being proposed?) may not be a major issue for museum environments, but GIS would advise the following:
- Retain as much as possible of the controlled air by keeping (internal as well as external) doors closed, reducing any air ventilation/ leakage/ draughts, and using blinds, curtains and/ or shutters if the museum decides it cannot be open to the public during these blackouts;
- gradually reduce the amount of environmental control in the day(s) leading up to the planned black-out to create a slow and gradual change to the period with no control, and just as importantly, gradually reintroduce the environmental control and resist the temptation to get conditions back to where they were as quickly as possible. Slow and smooth changes are much less likely to create problems (whether from ‘good’ to ‘bad’ conditions, or the other way round);
- where possible switch control and monitoring equipment off manually prior to the blackout period, and switch back on manually after the period has finished, to avoid damage to equipment as a result of the brief surge when electricity supply is restored;
- monitor the effect of the first few black-outs on the environments (most monitoring equipment is battery-operated and will continue to take readings even if there can be no live data), and adjust the need for/ amount of preparation accordingly. Museums relying on their BMS for monitoring data may wish to purchase some independent monitoring equipment that continues to operate during a blackout (unless generators are in place to ensure uninterrupted power supply).