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Heritage Emergency National Task Force (HENTF)

Emergency Managers

Arts and Culture Organizations

General Public

Additional Resources

The Heritage Emergency National Task Force, co-sponsored by FEMA and the Smithsonian Institution, strives to protect cultural and historic resources in our nation’s states, tribes, territories and local communities from the damaging effects of disasters. In addition to assisting museums and other cultural institutions when their collections are damaged by an event, HENTF helps reduce disaster suffering by assisting the public in salvaging flood-damaged family heirlooms.

HENTF leverages the expertise of its membership of more than 60 culture- and emergency management–related national service organizations and federal agencies to help FEMA and its federal partners connect with and assist cultural institutions and arts organizations at the local level.

Support for Emergency Managers

Technical Assistance

HENTF is a supporting organization of both Emergency Support Function (ESF) #11 of the National Response Framework and the Natural & Cultural Resources Recovery Support Function (NCR RSF) of the National Disaster Recovery Framework. Under both frameworks, HENTF works closely with the Department of the Interior to provide technical assistance, guidance and resources to cultural stewards, first responders and emergency managers to address disaster-related impacts on cultural and historic resources.


Heritage Emergency and Response Training (HEART) is HENTF’s annual training to improve disaster response at the institutional level. Hosted by the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative, this week-long training prepares U.S. emergency managers and cultural stewards to work together to gain the skills and hands-on experience needed to protect, evacuate and salvage collections.

Review the HEART Evacuation Exercise

Support for Arts and Culture Organizations

Collaboration with Public Assistance

HENTF delivers technical assistance and guidance to private nonprofit (PNP) cultural institutions and arts organizations by drawing on the diverse expertise of its members. HENTF also supports arts and culture PNPs by directing them to FEMA’s Public Assistance (PA) Grant Program. When a major disaster is declared, HENTF facilitates outreach and initiates a chain of communications to share response and recovery resources. It solicits reports of damage and unmet needs from affected arts and culture institutions and helps them navigate the PA process by providing guidance in collaboration with FEMA and state PA officers. HENTF keeps PA informed about the extent and severity of damage to the arts and culture sector and helps disseminate PA information and updates to local stakeholders to help them move forward on the path to recovery.


Collecting institutions such as museums, libraries, archives, and cultural centers hold the collective history of our communities, our states, our territories, our tribes, and our nation. HENTF provides response training to cultural stewards who care for these collections so they are prepared when an emergency occurs. See Heritage Emergency and Response Training (HEART) above under Support for Emergency Managers.

Support for the General Public

The losses that result from disasters are usually counted in dollars. But following a disaster, the losses with the most sentimental value for disaster survivors are often irreplaceable family heirlooms – photographs, a wedding video, an antique quilt, Grandma’s recipe cards. In the aftermath of a disaster, these treasured keepsakes may be salvaged instead of reluctantly discarded.

In the wake of a disaster, in collaboration with the Disaster Recovery Centers (DRC) Unit of Individual Assistance and the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative, trained Environmental and Historic Preservation cadre members and preservation experts from the Smithsonian Institution and other federal agencies deploy to DRCs to conduct HENTF’s Save Your Family Treasures Program. At the DRCs, preservation experts demonstrate how to safely handle, dry and clean damaged photographs, books, documents, textiles and other keepsakes. 

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Affected by a disaster? Learn more about saving your family treasures.

Additional Resources

Since 1995, the Heritage Emergency National Task Force has been providing individuals and the cultural community – museums, libraries, archives, arts organizations, records offices and more – with guidance and technical assistance before, during and after disasters.

A wealth of resources exists on the Task Force website, including:

For more information about protecting cultural heritage threatened or affected by disasters — in the United States and abroad — visit the website of our partner, the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative.