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  • July 20, 2021 9:11 AM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Security Management Magazine

    The contemporary organization strives for inclusion and diversity—not simply in terms of demographics, but in attitudes, opinions, and ways of thinking. Diverse ideas can fuel innovation and create radical change, leading to new levels of success. While diversity can strengthen an organization, strong or extreme beliefs in the workplace can be a two-edged sword. An employee’s passion for a belief or cause might manifest itself as a real commitment to their employer or a project, but it can also create friction, erode workforce cohesion, and consume valuable resources when dealing with conflict.

    Finding the right balance between welcoming diverse views and minimizing tension between those who hold those views and others can be tricky, but it is necessary. Left unchecked, extreme beliefs can not only threaten cohesion and productivity, they can compromise safety and raise the risk of disruptive behaviors, even violence.

    A challenge for those tasked with workplace safety and security is recognizing when beliefs and behaviors begin to approach a red line—when they are not simply strong feelings, but potential pre-incident indicators of risk or possible signs or symptoms of mental illness. Strong beliefs, extreme beliefs, and conspiracy theories are often tinged with a sense of grievance—the thought that something is wrong and there is someone to blame. In the threat assessment field, grievance is recognized as an entry point to the pathway to violence.

    Extreme thoughts can become extreme actions.

    Extreme beliefs and conspiracy theories often develop around the idea that a person, group of people, or way of life is under threat by dark forces within an organization, community, or culture. Paranoia about the perceived threat leads to defensiveness and an us-versus-them mentality. It can create the sense that a person or group is at war with others around them who do not subscribe to the same ideas—the nonbelievers.

    Paranoia is an established risk indicator for workplace violence; that is not news. Employees who are convinced that their coworkers, supervisors, or organization present an imminent risk may act preemptively to protect themselves or others they believe are in danger. Many instances of workplace violence have been inspired by paranoia. Someone who is paranoid harbors excessive distrusts without justification and may believe that sinister plots are swirling around them. Sometimes paranoid people feel compelled to use violence to stop a real or perceived threat. Extreme thoughts can become extreme actions.

    In a workplace culture that promotes inclusion and diversity—not just who people are, but how they think—how does the organization recognize and tolerate deeply held, sometimes extreme beliefs? What are the thresholds for speech and conduct in the workplace, and how should the organization respond when someone approaches or crosses the line between extreme ideas and extreme behaviors? These are important questions for leaders at all levels in an organization, but especially pressing for security, legal, and HR professionals.

    When speech and conduct are perceived as disruptive or potentially dangerous, it is important that they be viewed as potential risk indicators and never simply brushed aside. While it is important to create a workplace culture that tolerates diverse, powerful, and sometimes unpopular attitudes or beliefs, it is never acceptable to say, “Oh, that’s just that employee being themselves—it’s just who they are or how they are.” The failure to recognize and respond to hostile communications and behavior leaves open the possibility of escalation.

    An employee who subscribes to the QAnon ideology, for example, might deeply believe that liberal elites and other actors in an imagined “deep state” are working to cover up child sex trafficking operations by forcing the pubic onto the 5G cellular network where they can manipulate communications about their nefarious activity that might expose them. That may seem like a pretty far-fetched belief, and it certainly may raise some eyebrows around the water cooler, but if that same employee now is refusing to communicate with coworkers who have 5G phones, there may be a direct and immediate impact on productivity and team cohesion in the workplace. This sort of disruptive behavior crosses the line between free speech into behavior with real world consequences.

    U.S. Department of Justice and FBI research suggests that individuals who commit mass violence in a workplace, school, or community typically exhibit four to five observable indicators in the lead up to their attacks. Violent action is often proceeded by hostile rhetoric. Ideas that are associated with an extremist movement and represented by hateful language, images, or actions cannot be left unchecked. In most instances an organization’s code of conduct for employees will address hateful speech or actions, and it will clearly communicate the potential consequences for such behavior. But organizations cannot regulate what people think or believe.

    In approaching an individual who holds extreme attitudes or opinions that have become disruptive or concerning, it is important to focus on the behavior, not the belief. Trying to convince someone that their worldview is incorrect or delusional is a fool’s errand. Such individuals often push back citing their rights to free speech or other legal rights. Attempts to intervene, de-escalate conflicts that may arise from extreme beliefs, or to conduct thorough risk of violence assessments must be focused on the facts—specifically the communication or behavior of concern.

    Depending on the nature and seriousness of the employee’s belief, it might be advisable to meet with the individual to further assess the quality and strength of their beliefs and to review how discussion of the extreme ideas in the workplace affects other employees or the work environment. The National Standard on Workplace Violence Prevention and Intervention suggests the use of outside consultants in complicated cases where specialized knowledge or skills are required to determine the level of concern.

    Research in this area makes it clear that even highly qualified and credentialed forensic psychiatrists and psychologists may have difficulty distinguishing between extreme belief and delusions. At present, there are no clear best practices in managing extreme beliefs in the workplace, and each situation will likely need to be addressed on a case-by-case basis working within the existing frameworks of security, human resources, legal, and threat assessment policies and procedures.

    An employer’s duty of care must be balanced between an individual’s rights and the safety and security of the workplace. Finding that balance in an environment with strong polarized attitudes and opinions is a challenge made more complicated by evolving political and media landscapes. Security professionals must be able to see through the smoke of extreme ideas to determine if the fire of extreme action is being ignited within their workplace.

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  • July 20, 2021 9:05 AM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Security Management Magazine

    There has never been a more important time to be mindful of the mental health of employees than now. After what organizations have endured during the past 18 months, it’s remarkable that so many organizations can point to quick adaptation and resiliency on the part of their employees as amazing successes.

    However, we may be seeing the costs that come with that success. Last summer, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 40 percent of people said they were struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues. The National Safety Council (NSC) reported that 9 in 10 employees said their workplaces caused them stress and 83 percent said they experienced “emotional exhaustion.”

    The Mental Health Index is a study led by management consulting firm Total Brain, along with partners that include the American Health Policy Institute and the HR Policy Association. The December 2020 Mental Health Index cited that the risk of general anxiety disorder had increased 80 percent. The index went further and conducted simple tests to see how these stressors affect people’s cognitive ability at different points in time. From prepandemic 2020 until December 2020, the study showed a 9 percent decline in memory recall capacity and a 62 percent decrease in focus and sustained attention capacity.

    “Our work and our workplaces impact our mental health and wellbeing,” the NSC said. “This has never been more evident than with the changes in working conditions this past year—with some working from home indefinitely, some in extraordinarily high-stress and high-risk frontline jobs, often for longer hours, and others experiencing layoffs and job insecurities. …Mental distress includes periods of intense nervousness, hopelessness, restlessness, depression, feeling like things require great effort, or feeling worthless or down on oneself. This distress is painful and costly for both employers and employees.”

    Even prior to the turmoil caused by the pandemic and civil unrest, a study from the United Kingdom’s Institute of Occupational Safety and Health estimated that mental health issues cost UK businesses £42 billion ($58 billion) in lost productivity. Despite the costs, the same report found that 57 percent of people responding to the survey said their businesses offered no mental health or wellbeing training or support for managerial staff. Of the 43 percent that have some training, almost 80 percent reported that the training was not mandatory.

    Just to pile on a little more, 80 percent of those surveyed said they would be reluctant to discuss their mental health with their manager. In an ASIS webinar in May, “Managing Better Conversations for Wellbeing,” Heather Beach, founder and director of the Healthy Work Company, said employers have a duty to their employees to do better.

    “Quite often managers are promoted because they’re very good technically at the job,” Beach said. “They’re not necessarily the best, empathetic people managers.”

    Beach said the context of this work duty does not just include severe mental health diseases, such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or post traumatic stress disorder. It includes mental health issues that all of us experience. No human is immune to anxiety, stress, depression, or a host of other issues that can affect how people function, both professionally and personally. As the statistics above indicate, this is an especially acute time, one where managers—even ones with weak empathic ability—need to be sharp to ensure their teams are functioning well.

    The good news is, as a manager you are not expected to be a caregiver.

    “All you’re expected to do is to notice that someone is struggling and have that conversation with them,” Beach said, “to support them, to empathize, and to normalize, and to signpost them to get further support.”

    The NSC gives four recommendations for addressing employee mental health and distress:

    • Understand how workplace conditions and culture can impact employee mental health and, in some cases, create or enhance employee mental distress.
    • Ensure leaders, managers, and supervisors prioritize employee mental health and wellbeing; work to prevent mental distress; and support employees who experience it.
    • Ensure human resources develops robust, compassionate, and clear policies, programs, and procedures to prevent mental distress and support employees.
    • Provide employee education and increasing awareness on mental wellbeing and distress, as well as awareness of workplace resources, support, and policies.

    “While understanding the impact of worker wellbeing on the bottom line is a critical motivator for organizations, we must be careful to not lose sight of the humanity of this issue," the NSC report said. "At the end of the day, we are all employees. We have all experienced unprecedented stress and distress over the past year.”

    Going from the organizational level to the individual level, in the ASIS webinar, Beach gives guidance for managers. She calls it the A-B-C-D approach. Here’s a quick look at each component.

    A – Ask

    Managers who want to be in tune with the mental health of their staffs—all managers should aspire to this if they want to foster a high-performing team—need to be constantly aware. Managers need to be able to recognize behavioral changes. Did an employee who left at 5:00 p.m. on the dot every day suddenly begin staying later? Did someone who generally has an impeccable appearance show up to work a couple of times with a disheveled uniform? Has a generally passive employee become more assertive?

    And when you notice something, ask about it. “Don’t wait for the perfect moment,” she said. “Especially now. There is no perfect moment is there? You might want to react quickly.”

    And, importantly, ask twice. Often the reflexive answer is that everything is fine, but if you ask twice, you are giving them permission to go beyond the expected answer.

    B – Be Present

    If the ask leads to a conversation, it’s time for managers to turn on the active listening skills. Humans are horrible listeners. In general, we hear a few thoughts and our minds begin racing, filling in all the spaces between the words the other person is saying with our own thoughts, suggestions, judgments, and—the worst—anything that we think makes us look smart or powerful. And then we can’t wait to share these insights and we have quickly turned from trying to understand the person to whom we’re supposed to be listening to thinking about how best to say back what we want to say.

    Beach proposed that doubling down on active listening approaches is imperative in such situations. After all, as a manager you’ve done the hard work of initiating a conversation. It would be shame to wreck it.

    Instead, summarize what they are saying using their words. Ask clarifying, open-ended questions to continue the dialog and improve your own understanding. Use and respect silence to encourage additional sharing.

    C – Create a Plan

    The most important part of creating a plan in this context is that managers create a plan with the employee, not for the employee. In fact, the more the employee develops his or her own plan, the better. Remember the earlier statement from Beach: Managers are not expected to be psychologists, therapists, or parents. A manager’s job is to support, to empathize, to normalize, and to help find or suggest additional support.

    D – Duty

    Organizations have a duty to their employees. When managers engage employees in conversations about their wellbeing, Beach reminded that managers must remember their role in this. They are agents of the organization. That does not mean that managers do not also share the best interests of the employee. Quite the opposite, in fact, employees are also part of the organization. However, this dual role needs to be a factor in their conversations. Managers should not be promising confidentiality, for example. And managers should also document these conversations, even if it is in the form of contemporaneous notes that are not shared with anyone else.

    The goal is for managers to spot any issues quickly. It’s true in so many situations: an early intervention can keep a minor issue from becoming a major obstacle. And that’s often true with the mental wellbeing of employees.

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  • July 20, 2021 8:54 AM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Security Magazine

    While technology advances have significantly improved the communication and collaboration aspects of work in all industries, there are also multiple ways in which tech can be used to boost safety and productivity for workers.

    Especially for employers with an isolated workforce or with lone workers that can come across third party risks or hazards completely outside of an employer’s control, tech solutions can make a great difference.

    What are the ways in which technological solutions improve workplace safety and boost worker productivity? From wearable safety devices, incident reporting software and alarm monitoring systems, to incidents and task management software, employers have access to a whole host of solutions to try and implement.

    In this article, you’ll learn about how to leverage tech in the health and safety industry, from the importance of doing this to some practical solutions that you can embrace easily.

    Why use technology for safety and productivity?

    When technology is discussed in a workplace context, it is normally associated with productivity, especially from a process improvement perspective. This can range from office organization tools to sharing information, calendars, and resources.

    Especially recently during the health crisis, technology has also been heavily linked to communication in the office as well as in more operational contexts. Delivering meetings via online platforms, being able to share screens and documents, and enabling colleagues to contact each other virtually 24/7 through a host of apps has become the norm in the modern workplace.

    However, the health and safety industry has yet to fully tap into the potential of tech solutions. Currently, technology can be used to prevent injuries and even fatalities thanks to the use of devices like a man down alarm.

    Some organizations might make use of trackers and incident reporting software. But many of the tools used to keep people safe and manage their daily workload are becoming outdated, complex, slow, or lead to even more problems for managers.

    This is why embracing new, simple and well-performing tech solutions can make a huge difference to how your teams work every day. With intuitive, reliable and integrated tools, workflow management and ensuring safety and security move into the modern era.

    Using the full array of tech solutions available for workplace safety and productivity can yield multiple benefits:

    • Reducing the risk of manual errors and missed reports or check-ins;
    • Adding a layer of fail-safe security measures to fall back upon in case of incidents, even when workers involved may be less well trained or more junior;
    • Making safety and security more transparent and easier to enact thanks to apps and devices;
    • Shareable workflows and to-do lists which enable the whole team to communicate and collaborate better, while staying aware of where everyone is;
    • Easier and faster lessons learnt logging and information sharing.

    Top tech solutions for your workforce

    So, what are the best ways to include technology for your workforce to support their health and safety, while also boosting productivity? Below is a non-exhaustive list of solutions you can proactively implement with your teams quickly and easily.

    Safety devices and lone worker apps

    The first step towards ensuring worker safety in any environment is conducting a thorough risk assessment. This should be based on interviews with staff, a process overview and any lessons learnt from previous incidents.

    After your risk assessment, you will most likely find that the minimum requirement for worker safety is that your teams are equipped with safety devices. These include lone worker safety devices and apps, which allow them to contact a central in-house or external monitoring team.

    These solutions ensure real-time communication and alert raising during emergencies. They also offer a seamless user experience, especially when using apps that support two-way voice calls, a one-touch discreet alarm activation, and the familiarity of a mobile phone we all use every day.

    Finally, they are a great source of peace of mind for workers, allowing them to be productive without worrying about being stranded in case something goes wrong.

    Alarm monitoring systems

    Having safety devices and apps is a great first step towards ensuring employees’ safety. However, a key element of keeping your teams safe is the ability to always respond when an alarm is triggered.

    This is where alarm monitoring systems come in. The latest, most competitive ones offer custom-fit solutions that match your organization’s requirements. Look for one which integrates perfectly with your workers’ devices and is supported by a cloud-based platform for perfect interoperability and access from wherever your monitoring team is situated.

    Incident reporting software

    Preventing hazards from developing into safety incidents is facilitated by the use of safety devices, alarm monitoring systems, and overall improved communication and monitoring of workers. However, things can always go wrong and it’s important to be able to accurately and easily report incidents.

    New tech solutions enable workers to streamline and speed up their reporting, capturing the information quickly and accurately.

    This has two benefits: firstly, it makes reporting easier and more attractive, as it is less awkward than filling in long paper forms or outdated systems. Secondly, modern incident reporting software boosts productivity, too. As less time is spent logging, more time can be spent on moving ahead with important work.

    Finally, consider using incident reporting software that allows the users to log hazards and near misses. This can significantly improve overall safety by reducing the likelihood of incidents occurring. It also boosts productivity as it reduces the hours possibly missed as a result of an incident.

    Mass notification software

    Depending on your industry, mass notifications can become very important for alerting entire regions or wider populations that could be impacted by an incident or hazard. Keeping people informed before, during, and after critical events can make the difference between a hazard and a massive accident.

    For mass notifications, there are also significant productivity benefits to be gained from efficient communication and alerts. Rerouting workers, organizing plan B activities or putting in place continuity plans can also be made easier by using mass notification software that alerts everyone concerned quickly and efficiently.

    Inspections and task management software

    Finally, when it comes to managing workloads and tasks, coordinating groups and logging and ticking off actions, the latest task management software can make a huge difference for saving time and ensuring productivity levels are at their best.

    From a health and safety perspective, software supporting inspection forms that can be created in easy-to-use templates will help save time and make it easier for your inspectors to complete their work. Organizing corrective action plans can all be done quicker and in a more interconnected fashion if you’re using an all-in-one app, too.

    Task management software that allows management to see where the workforce is deployed at all times also enhances security and productivity.

    An overview of teams’ locations ensures that they can be contacted for pre-emptive hazard reporting, located easily in the case of an incident, and deployed effectively when synergies are noticed in activity on the ground.

    For example, noticing that one team member is not far from a site where others need help, contacting and deploying them at that location, saves everyone significant time and travel.

    Eliminating pen-and-paper reporting makes all the information easier to share, come back to in the future, and use in training. It’s also a more sustainable, enduring way to log all the data for the long term.

    Proactively use technology to enhance your teams’ safety and productivity

    Embracing tech solutions in your business will enable your teams to work safer and quicker, creating a positive and interconnected workplace.

    See Original Post

  • July 20, 2021 8:35 AM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from The Atlantic

    An archivist sneezes on a priceless document. Then what?

    What, exactly, does history lose when an archive-worthy text is destroyed?

    A year and a half ago, I found myself in an archive room at the London School of Economics, staring at 150-year-old documents complete with swirly handwriting and a red-wax seal. My mind flicked back to a few weeks earlier, when I’d gotten one of my occasional nosebleeds, and I had a random yet horrifying thought: What if my nose starts bleeding on one of these irreplaceable pages? What would happen if I ruined them? I was doing research for a book I was writing about the first women physicians. Examining personal letters and other original records—holding speeches, notes, and letters handwritten by the women I was writing about—helped answer many of the questions I had but also sparked a new one: What, exactly, does history lose when an archive-worthy text is destroyed?

    I had the chance to discuss my fears at my next research stop, the Centre for Research Collections at the University of Edinburgh’s main library. When a smoke alarm interrupted my silent, solitary scholarship, another researcher invited me to her office for a cup of tea. The alarm got us talking about archival damage, and when I shared my nosebleed anxieties, she told me that a friend of hers had once sneezed on an illuminated manuscript. As the friend instinctively began wiping, the ink smudged. The more they wiped, the worse it got; the scene was practically the same nightmare that had been depicted on the old British TV show Mr. Bean.

    All public archives, like the ones I visited in late 2019, before the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, must balance the responsibility of making collections accessible while also protecting them. “There are documents that become almost sacred,” Elizabeth Yale, an author and a history lecturer at the University of Iowa, told me. “If you think about the copy of the Declaration of Independence on display at the National Archives, the physical document itself carries so much weight and meaning that it has to be treated differently.”

    When I asked an online group of archivists for horror stories, members told tales of researchers attempting to slide 18th-century parchment through the document feeder of a photocopier; of museum artifacts getting damaged by the blood of a doe that crashed through the window; of a scrapbook leaking glitter on important texts. One writer said that in college she watched her professor accidentally rip a medieval palimpsest. Some archivists cited the damage done to centuries-old documents by outdated cataloging or preservation methods: lamination, tape, ink stamps, ballpoint-pen markings to denote library ownership. “When I was processing the Susan Wright papers on the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom for the Leather Archives in Chicago, I gave myself a bad paper cut and bled on one of the pages,” the writer Jessica DiMaio said. “I was just an intern, and it was an ‘Oh shit!’ moment.”

    Of course, many important texts have seen worse: fires, floods, thefts, volcanic ash. Yale explained how politically inconvenient papers purged from libraries and Catholic monasteries in the 16th and 17th centuries got reused as beer-keg or musket stoppers, pie-pan liners, and parcel wrapping. Having lost so much knowledge to authoritarian acts of destruction makes preserving what has been collected all the more crucial. “All of the labor and all of the care that goes into maintaining collections, keeping them in order, making sure the materials are findable, creating plans for emergencies ... This is work that has to be sustained over generations of archivists and librarians,” Yale told me.

    In other words: “Documents don’t just conserve themselves.”

    Curious to learn more about what happens to damaged archival materials, I arranged a tour of the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts back home in Philadelphia, in February 2020. I didn’t know at the time that it would be my last in-person reporting trip before much of the U.S. shut down. Dyani Feige, the director of preservation services at CCAHA, said of the center’s work: “Preservation is really the underpinning of collections. We would not have collections without preservation.”

    The tour greatly eased my fears about inflicting accidental damage when handling primary documents. In a space that’s part artist’s workshop, part science lab, conservators work magic, performing feats of restoration I never imagined possible. I watched as a paper conservator submerged an Auguste Rodin watercolor in a bath of deionized water to undo the darkening the paper had experienced from light exposure. At another table, several 1920s panoramic photos of rodeo performers sat waiting to have enormous longwise tears painstakingly repaired. Coiled for storage, the photos had grown brittle and tore when unrolled. In front of another conservator was a large abstract painting, thick and impossibly black with a heart of blue. On its way to America from a London gallery, its frame failed. Once the conservator had cleared the shattered glass embedded in the art, he hunched over a magnifying glass, holding up tiny flecks of the paper’s edges that had ripped off to find where they belonged.

    I also learned that some of the worst enemies of precious artifacts aren’t humans but mice, insects, and moisture. A copy of the Nuremberg Chroniclehad come in to have sections of its cover mended. Made of rag paper in the late 1400s, the book blossomed with vibrantly colored woodcut illustrations. Metals in the paints were slowly breaking down the paper. A conservator invited me to smell the text to see if I could detect the rat-urine aroma he’d noted. To me, it just smelled musty. The bottom corners of the pages had been darkened by centuries of oily fingers flipping pages. The conservator imagined people sitting down to lunch while thumbing through it.

    The pandemic complicated archival restoration efforts—you can’t exactly mend the Nuremberg Chronicle remotely. Most labs, archives, libraries, and museums closed, at least temporarily. The National Center for Preservation Technology and Training was quick to offer advice on personal protection equipment, disinfecting artifacts, and safe reopening. The American Institute for Conservation collected a trove of resources relating to caring for collections and the people who interact with them during the pandemic.

    CCAHA’s lab closed for only a few months last spring; by June 2020, it was back up and running, with an abbreviated, staggered work schedule. By then, research had shown the coronavirus was undetectable on library materials after three days, so the people whose job it was to handle such materials could feel more at ease. Unfortunately, some germ-mitigation efforts actually pose a threat to artifacts: Library of Congress research showed that alcohol-based hand sanitizers can cause some types of paper to yellow. The pandemic also forced CCAHA to get creative about its other work; the center now holds combination online/hands-on preservation training classes and performs virtual assessments of archival collections. The lessons learned in dealing with this pandemic can be carried into future emergencies and disruptions of normal life.

    For many artifacts, their importance is born of the damage they’ve amassed. The inky paw prints left on a 15th-century manuscript give it character, and tell a story of their own. The same goes for the dozens of doodles Charles Darwin’s children left on his draft of On the Origin of Species. But these defacements occurred around the time of the artifacts’ creation, not at the hands of researchers far in the future.

    “Touch and handling and use add to the meaning of documents,” Elizabeth Yale said. “As you see people writing on them, shedding a hair on them, maybe even dropping candle wax on them—the fact that these have been used in some way, and you can see those traces in the documents, can [make] them even more meaningful for the historians. Even something that destroyed the documents can make it more interesting and more valuable.”

    One of the most miraculous restoration techniques I learned about involved new technologies being used to render legible texts once thought damaged beyond recognition. A digital-imaging specialist at CCAHA showed me how the center restored completely faded handwriting using UV photography. “We’re always discovering new ways to analyze the text that we have … Material analysis, chemical analysis, studying the metal in the pigments, studying the DNA in the parchment … A hundred years ago, nobody would have thought of that,” Yale said. Ash-encased Herculaneum library texts? Readable. The Dead Sea Scrolls? Readable. Their survival shows the importance of preserving even those documents that appear to be a total loss.

    But the technology of digitization can be a double-edged sword. The researcher who told me about her sneezing friend reasoned that the damage would be okay, because there was most likely a record of what was held in the text: Someone, somewhere would have taken a photo of it, would have copied down its contents. But is it enough to have digital records remembering things for us? Digitization is certainly a great way to preserve knowledge and make it more widely available, but the connection humans feel to physical objects themselves can never be replaced. I was surprised by how emotional I felt holding letters written by women I’d spent months researching. When an archive-worthy document is destroyed beyond restoration, we lose the stories that the artifact itself tells, stories that digitization can’t capture.

    “We are the stewards of what everyone who comes after us will be able to learn from,” CCAHA’s Feige mused. “In deciding to preserve, we're being responsible stewards of life. That sounds so big when I say it like that … but I think it really is that big.”

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  • July 08, 2021 6:57 AM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Forbes

    Recent times have seen atrocities committed in many regions. While damage to person and property are often the focus of headlines, there is an element of these crimes that is often neglected, and neglected at a high price: the destruction of cultural heritage. To demonstrate this in an example, the atrocities perpetrated by Daesh resulted in the destruction of churches and places of worship for minority religious groups across Iraq. While these buildings can be rebuilt, these communities have lost the heritage that these buildings preserved, passed down through generations. The same example is reflected in the crimes perpetrated against Uyghur minorities in Xinjiang, which have also resulted in the destruction of mosques, causing the loss of links to generations past. The destruction of cultural heritage is an important, and often overlooked, element of the atrocity crimes. Indeed, the destruction of cultural heritage often means more to these communities than the destruction of the physical churches and places of worship. 

    The destruction of cultural heritage may take various forms, both through the destruction of the tangible and intangible. Tangible heritage includes “monuments, religious or secular; buildings or groups of buildings which are of cultural value, either because of their architecture, homogeneity or place in the landscape, or because of their content, in the case of museums, archives or libraries; sites and movable objects (such as works of art, sculpture, manuscripts, books); underwater cultural heritage, including shipwrecks and underwater archaeological site.” Intangible heritage includes “the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge and skills that communities, groups, and, in some cases, individuals, recognize as part of their cultural heritage, together with the instruments, objects, artifacts, and cultural spaces associated therewith.” The intangible heritage will be ultimately destroyed as the people that make up targeted communities are displaced or killed. 

    The destruction of cultural heritage is often a part of the atrocities, but too often is given little attention. However, as the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) to the International Criminal Court (ICC) explains in its recently published policy briefing, the destruction of cultural heritage is an element of international crimes that requires a comprehensive response, including investigations and prosecutions. As the briefing explains “crimes against and affecting cultural heritage are a pervasive feature of the atrocities within the [ICC]’s jurisdiction. Willful attacks on cultural heritage constitute a centuries-old practice that remains a feature of modern conflict.” Furthermore, as “cultural heritage as the bedrock of cultural identities, (…) crimes committed against cultural heritage constitute, first and foremost, an attack on a particular group’s identity and practices, but in addition, an attack on an essential interest of the entire international community.” 

    The Rome Statute equips the ICC with jurisdiction over crimes against or affecting cultural heritage. For example, crimes against cultural heritage, carried out as a war crime in contravention of Article 8 of the Rome Statute, may include the directing of attacks against certain protected objects; the directing of attacks against civilian objects and other crimes which may nonetheless indirectly relate to cultural heritage. In September 2015, the OTP brought charges relating to cultural property for the first time ever in the case of Mr Ahmad al-Faqi al Mahdi, which arose out of the situation of Mali. In September 2016, al Mahdi was convicted of the war crime of intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to religion and historic monuments following his own admission of guilt. The case sent a strong message that the intentional targeting of cultural heritage is a serious crime.

    Crimes against or affecting cultural heritage frequently occur alongside genocide, “which may be effected by killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group, and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group, when committed with the requisite intent.” Furthermore “acts that are directed specifically against a group’s cultural heritage may assist to demonstrate the specific intent and the manifest pattern as required under article 6.”

    Furthermore, the destruction of cultural heritage is an important early warning sign of an atrocity to come. Indeed, within the U.N. Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes, the destruction of cultural heritage constitutes a common risk factor for atrocity crimes (e.g. common risk factor 7, “Destruction or plundering of essential goods or installations for protected groups, populations or individuals, or of property related to cultural and religious identity.”) Similarly, such crimes are a risk factor of genocide (e.g. Risk factor of genocide 9, “Past or present serious tensions or conflicts involving other types of groups (political, social, cultural, geographical, etc.) that could develop along national, ethnic, racial or religious lines.”) As such, crimes against cultural heritage, as an early warning sign, can help to identify scenarios where they may later lead to atrocities. 

    The destruction of cultural heritage is an important, and often overlooked, element of the atrocity crimes. Cultural heritage is as expressions of human life. As emphasized by the OTP, crimes affecting cultural heritage impact “our shared sense of humanity and the daily lives of local populations.” As such, they require comprehensive responses.

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  • July 08, 2021 6:41 AM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Union College

    Fifty years ago this month, thieves broke a rear window on the ground floor to gain entry to Schaffer Library. They headed to a locked case and smashed the quarter-inch thick glass with a hammer to retrieve the bounty on display for Commencement weekend: a single volume of naturalist John James Audubon’s stunning “Birds of America.”

    Measuring over three feet in height and running to four volumes that each weigh more than 40 pounds, “Birds of America” is one of the most celebrated books of natural history. It is also one of the world’s most valuable, worth an estimated $8 million to $12 million today.

    Audubon had created about 200 copies of the set, which featured 435 hand-colored prints of 1,037 birds; only 120 sets exist today. Union President Eliphalet Nott paid Audubon $1,000 for a set in 1844. Except for a brief stay in Cooperstown, N.Y. for safekeeping during World War II, the prints have remained on campus as one of the College’s greatest treasures.

    The daring theft in June 1971 generated headlines across the country. It also drew the attention of the FBI. John Holmes Jenkins III, a prominent rare book dealer and publisher from Austin, Texas, alerted the agency to a man he said had wandered into his shop weeks after the theft looking to sell pictures of birds discovered in an attic. To Jenkins, the prints sounded suspiciously like the ones he had seen in a notice about Union’s theft in the weekly Antiquarian Bookman.

    Working with the FBI, Jenkins later met with the man at a Queens, N.Y., motel. Federal agents stormed the room. They eventually discovered the stolen Audubon prints, along with a number of rare books taken in a separate robbery in New York City, in the trunk of a 1970 gold Chevrolet Impala used by the suspect.

    The cover page of the Audubon folio was missing and several of the plates were torn after being ripped from their binding. Blood stains dotted six of the prints, presumably after the thief cut himself on glass shards from the shattered case.

    Lauded as a hero, Jenkins collected a $2,000 reward from Union, which he returned. The College used the money to create a bibliography award in his name. It also awarded him its Founders Day Medal and an honorary degree. He also served briefly as a member of the Board of Trustees.

    Jenkins wrote a breathless account of his heroic deed for “Audubon and Other Capers: Confessions of a Texas Bookmaker.” Jenkins loved publicly sharing the story of his role in the recovery of the prints, stating, “It gets a little better each time I tell it.”

    For decades, the version offered by Jenkins shaped the narrative of the heist.

    It was not until the summer of 2011 that a broader picture of the theft emerged. Taking a fresh look at the heist on its 40th anniversary, the College’s alumni magazine published an exhaustive account that included many new details, including the origins of the crime.

    The theft was traced back to a shady Brooklyn book dealer, James S. Rizek, who had done business with both the College and Jenkins. Rizek had served time for defrauding libraries, among his other crimes. He allegedly recruited others to steal the Audubon volume.

    Most tellingly, the article included a bombshell claim from Kenneth Paull, the man who met with Jenkins at his shop in Texas in 1971 and was arrested at the Queens motel. A career thief from the Philadelphia area, Paull scoffed at Jenkins’s portrayal as a hero.

    “I didn’t know an Audubon from a Schmaudubon,” Paull told the magazine. “I was a professional thief. Do you honestly think I just flew down to Texas and looked around for somebody to buy stolen goods? We did not do anything on spec. We had a customer.”

    Paull, 87, is the last remaining character in the ordeal still alive, and his account cannot be corroborated. After a series of conversations with a Union Magazine writer in 2011 about his role, he said he no longer wished to discuss the heist.

    Paull’s insistence that Jenkins played a far more sinister role touched off a fierce debate. Many who had done business with Jenkins found it plausible that he exaggerated and even grossly misrepresented his role in the recovery.

    Wayne Somers '61, editor of the Encyclopedia of Union College History, worked at the library at the time of the theft. He has a different view.

    “Because John Jenkins was pretty clearly guilty of several crimes, it's tempting to add his role in the Audubon affair to the list, giving a sinister spin to his later fictions,” said Somers. “But the vagueness of the phrase 'in on it' makes such a charge tendentious at best. Whatever 'in on it' may mean, Jenkins could have been 'in on it' only if the crooks wanted him to be, and they had every reason to want Jenkins to know nothing. Letting Jenkins know Rizek was involved would put Rizek's parole at risk, and letting him know the goods were stolen would devalue them. Nor was there any advantage to them in Jenkins knowing those things.”

    Jenkins died in April 1989. His body was found floating in the Colorado River near Austin with a gunshot wound in the back of his head. A renowned poker player, he was deeply in debt, and some believed he was about to be indicted for setting fires to his warehouses to collect the insurance money. Even his death was murky. A justice of the peace ruled it a homicide; the county sheriff insisted Jenkins committed suicide to escape the troubles piling up his life.

    More than 30 years after his death, there was renewed public scrutiny of Jenkins. In March 2020, Texas Monthly published a lengthy piece, “The Legend of John Holmes Jenkins,” which recounted some of his alleged misdeeds, including forgery and arson.

    A more damning account of his life was the release the following month of “Bluffing Texas Style: The Arsons, Forgeries, and High Stakes Poker Capers of Rare Book Dealer Johnny Jenkins,” by Michel Vinson, a book dealer and one-time acquaintance of Jenkins.

    Writing in the Wall Street Journal, a reviewer said, “Mr. Vinson has solved the longstanding mystery of Johnny Jenkins. His research shows that, beginning with his college days, there was never a time when Jenkins was not cheating, swindling, stealing and lying.”

    Vinson devoted nearly a full chapter to the Union heist, relying heavily on the 2011 alumni magazine article. He also shared new information that may explain in part Jenkins’s motivation in getting tangled up in Union’s crime.

    Months before the heist, Jenkins had been rejected for membership in the prestigious Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America, purportedly because of questions about his character. As someone who loved the limelight, he was stung by the rejection.

    “If he could save the Audubon plates by turning on the crooks who thought he would be their fence, then he could recast his reputation,” said Vinson. “And that is exactly what happened. He was admitted to the association in 1972, was elected to the Board of Governors in 1975 and became president of the organization in 1980. No one ever learned that he was the original fence who was supposed to buy the stolen Audubon plates.”

    No one was prosecuted for Union’s crime. That likely would not be the case today, said Geoff Kelly, a special agent with the FBI in Boston and a member of the bureau’s art crime team.

    Formed in 2005 in part to track down antiquities that were looted from the Baghdad Museum after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the art crime team has recovered nearly 15,000 objects worth nearly $800 million and secured more than 90 convictions.

    Federal statutes back in the 1970s did not have much meat on them to aggressively prosecute for interstate transportation of stolen property.

    Referring to the Audubons, he said there is often a misconception about art theft.

    “It’s not like ‘The Thomas Crown Affair,’” said Kelly. He is the lead investigator for the infamous Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist, the largest theft from a museum in modern history. He was also involved in the high-profile investigation into the theft of quarterback Tom Brady’s game-worn jerseys in Super Bowls LI and XLIX.

    “It is usually con men, criminals, bank robbers who do these things,” he said.

    Fifty years after the dramatic Audubon theft, a definitive account remains elusive. Answers to key questions may forever stay a mystery.

    Today, Union’s Audubon set looks better than ever. As part of a restoration project in 2006, each lithograph was removed from the four bound volumes, cleaned, mended and placed in special archival boxes. Individual plates are displayed periodically in a highly secure case in the Lally Reading Room in Schaffer Library.

    Carl George, professor emeritus of biology, arrived at Union in 1967. From the moment he first viewed the Audubon folios, he has been inspired by their beauty and attention to detail. He was the first professor at the College to use them as a teaching tool for his students. Now 90, he continues to give presentations on the prints.

    “Art and science are not that distant, and the Audubons are a great combination of science and art,” said George. “A good scientist is often times a fine artist, and an artist is often times a fine scientist. The Audubons speak to Union’s mission of uniting the different disciplines.”

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  • July 08, 2021 6:35 AM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Infosecurity Magazine

    Ransomware attacks fell by 50% in Q1 2021 as threat actors shifted from using mass spread campaigns to focusing on fewer, larger targets with unique samples, according to the McAfee Threats Report: June 2021.

    The researchers noted that the traditional approach of using one form of ransomware to infect and extort payments from many victims is becoming less prominent, mainly because the targeted systems can recognize and block such attempts over time. Instead, they see a trend towards fewer, customized Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) campaigns tailored to larger, more lucrative organizations.

    As a result of this shift, the analysis found that the number of prominent ransomware family types declined from 19 in January 2021 to nine in March 2021. The most detected ransomware group in Q1 2021 was REvil, followed by RansomeXX, Ryuk, NetWalker, Thanos, MountLocker, WastedLocker, Conti, Maze and Babuk strains.

    Raj Samani, McAfee fellow and chief scientist, explained: “Criminals will always evolve their techniques to combine whatever tools enable them to best maximize their monetary gains with the minimum of complication and risk. We first saw them use ransomware to extract small payments from millions of individual victims. Today, we see RaaS supporting many players in these illicit schemes holding organizations hostage and extorting massive sums for the criminals.”

    Numerous high-profile ransomware incidents have taken place this year; these include the attacks on the US East Coast fuel pipeline operator Colonial Pipeline and meat processor JBS, both of which led to substantial payments being paid.

    Another important finding from the report was that there was a 117% rise in the spread of cryptocurrency-generating coin mining malware, which McAfee said is as a result of a spike in 64-bit CoinMiner applications. Unlike ransomware, in which victims’ systems are locked up and held hostage until a cryptocurrency payment is made, Coin Miner malware infects organizations’ systems and then silently produces cryptocurrency using those systems’ computing capacity. This tactic means criminals do not need to interact with the victim, who may be completely unaware they are under attack.

    Samani added: “The takeaway from the ransomware and coin miner trends shouldn’t be that we need to restrict or even outlaw the use of cryptocurrencies. If we have learned anything from the history of cybercrime, criminals counter defenders’ efforts by simply improving their tools and techniques, sidestepping government restrictions, and always being steps ahead of defenders in doing so. If there are efforts to restrict cryptocurrencies, perpetrators will develop new methods to monetize their crimes, and they only need to be a couple steps ahead of governments to continue to profit.”

    In total, McAfee detected an average of 688 new malware threats per minute in Q1 of 2021, representing an increase of 40 threats per minute compared to Q4 of 2020.

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  • July 07, 2021 10:33 AM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from AAM

    All aquariums, zoos, and museums have core values—beliefs, philosophies, and principles that drive the organization. These values support the organization’s vision, shape its culture, and ensure that all employees are working towards the same goals. At the Monterey Bay Aquarium (MBA), for instance, we have eleven formally defined core values: service, inclusion, respect, teamwork, leadership, integrity, quality, innovation, communication, sustainability, and fun. As an institution and as individuals, we use these core values to direct our day-to-day activities, influence our interactions with others, and guide our future plans.

    Following the departure of a long-tenured Vice President of Exhibitions, in May 2019, I became the second Vice President within a three-year period. Having experienced so much change, in addition to starting the most complex and technically challenging exhibition MBA had ever embarked upon, the Exhibitions team had not been able to establish a shared culture that fully embraced the organization’s core values.

    During my first nine months, I met with everyone on my team individually and in groups. Staff shared what they thought did and did not work in our processes and culture. I attended meetings with staff in Exhibitions and from across the organization. I watched and I listened. What I saw and heard was a team that had gone through a great deal of disruption in prior years—comings and goings of staff, radical changes in job descriptions, inconsistent exhibition processes, leadership changes, emergence of dysfunctional and antisocial behaviors, emergence of fear, and for some, trauma. This resulting culture was not the fault of any one particular individual, but rather a perfect storm of factors that led to a team that did not embody trust, collaboration, or respect for their collective work.

    After reflecting on the feedback, as a first step, I reorganized the division. This meant the departure of some staff and the addition of three new leadership positions to oversee content, design, and project management. I was ready to embark on the project of engaging all of the Exhibitions staff to work together to build a more cohesive and collaborative team. Then COVID happened. And like the rest of the world, MBA closed. Some of the Exhibitions staff was furloughed, then laid off. The rest of us shifted from working on-site to working from home, and staff anxiety increased due to an uncertain future. Many questions streamed through everyone’s mind: Would there be future layoffs? Who would be affected? Could we trust leadership in navigating us through a pandemic? How would we work remotely to develop and design the most complex exhibition MBA has ever created? 

    The Exhibitions Division leadership team and I were all new to working with one another, and we needed to find common ground as a cohesive leadership team before we engaged our staff in the process of creating core values. We had conversations about the culture we, the leadership team, wanted within our division—the qualities we wanted to come forward (collaboration, communication, joy, positivity) and the type of environment we wanted to foster (creative, trusting, communicative, nimble). We also discussed the negative attributes we saw in various capacities that we wanted to get rid of (passive-aggressiveness, poor communication, ego). Based on these discussions, we developed a process that would hopefully be a safe space free of judgement and criticism, while empowering staff to step forward and help define our core values.

    In August 2020, we began laying out our process for collaboratively defining a more cohesive team. We kicked off a multi-step process at a virtual all-division meeting which was attended by the entire Exhibitions staff.

    Step 1: Ground rules

    I defined the following ground rules for this process:

      1. This is your opportunity to have your voice heard, so be present and participate. Help shape our collective future.
      2. Be generous with each other during this process.
      3. Don’t name names.

    Step 2: Define qualities we want in our working relationships

    I asked each staff member to reflect on the following prompt: Think about a personal friend or professional colleague (past or present) that you admire and/or strive to emulate. What are the qualities that this person embodies that you think are important for the work environment? For example, “clear communicator,” “honest,” etc.

    I then asked staff to take ten minutes to write down as many qualities as they could that resonated with them and answer the prompt. Then I asked them to select the top three and post them to our collaborative virtual whiteboard.

    Step 3: Define qualities we don’t want in our working relationships

    I then asked staff to think about the following prompt: What kinds of behaviors are harmful to relationships at work? I reminded them that these behaviors were not confined only to some people, but could be things that all of us exhibited at different times. Staff took ten minutes to write down their thoughts then selected and posted their top three.

    Step 4: Grouping behaviors

    As a group, we then read through the harmful behaviors and clustered similar answers together. As we went through, staff expressed agreement about what their peers had shared. One person said they didn’t realize that other staff felt the same way they did, to which many others nodded in agreement.

    Next, the entire team went back and read through the positive qualities, and again clustered similar qualities together. From the team’s responses, several clusters of values developed: creativity, collaboration, emotional intelligence, and communication. An additional value that came out was professionalism and work ethic. This last value became a significant point of discussion and wordsmithing for the leadership team and me, as these words can foster perfectionism and a white supremacy culture, neither of which we wanted to encourage.

    Step 5: Defining our core values as a group

    A few weeks later, the Exhibitions leadership team led several small group sessions for staff to reflect on what these words meant to them. After a second round of discussions, the leadership team and I further refined the distilled values. The entire Exhibitions staff was then given a chance to review and comment on the polished core values.

    Our team holds MBA’s broader organizational values as our foundation, and the Exhibitions Core Values stand in the fore of our collective work. To keep them in the fore, we dedicate a part of each division meeting to core value shout-outs, where speakers describe how their colleagues exemplify specific core values. For example, in a recent meeting, I shared, “In support of the value ‘Effective Communication,’ I really appreciated when Erica asked me if the way she was organizing the exhibit messages and descriptions was an effective tool for me to review, as well as to share with others.” But we also use our core values as a means to move our work forward in a positive way when having an issue with a colleague. We bring each other in and reference what’s not sitting right based on our core values, for example, “We’re not giving each other the information we need to succeed, so we have some work to do in recommitting to effective communication strategies with each other.” Additionally, these core values have helped identify origins to problems without blame, in a case where, as one staff member put it, “critical feedback was never stated out loud because team members weren’t feeling mutually supported. So, we’ve identified some work to do on collaborative feedback sessions rather than blaming the person who didn’t speak up.”

    As museums now work to reimagine themselves after COVID and increased calls to grapple with racial and social justice issues, now is the time for leadership to evaluate the cultural health of their departments and organizations as a whole. Collaboratively reassessing your values, or defining new ones, will produce more benefits than the time it takes to do this work. Your staff will feel invested and part of the greater whole. This foundational work will lead to better communication, productivity, and harmony amongst staff. In the Exhibitions Division at MBA, our staff has embraced the Exhibitions Core Values as part of the active and collaborative culture within the division. They shape how we interact with our colleagues within the division and across the organization, so that we create, support, and lift up our peers with positivity, empathy, and joy. They give everyone a chance to offer appreciation, feel appreciated, and provide working examples of bringing each other in with integrity, dignity, and passion.

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  • July 07, 2021 10:27 AM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Allied Universal

    The threat of an active shooter is a possibility anywhere. But as with any crisis situation, preparation and planning can help to minimize chaos and injury. Establishing an active shooter protocol, and communicating that plan to your tenants and employees, is critical. Your plan should:

    • Stress the importance of remaining calm in any violent situation.

    • Encourage anyone involved to call 911 in an emergency.

    • Enforce the importance of remaining on the line with the 911 operator until police arrive because needs may change as an event unfolds.

    • Detail how to warn employees an active shooter is present. Code words, intercom capabilities and instant messaging can help ensure people are aware of the situation and stay out of harm’s way.

    • Include evacuation and lock-down procedures.

    • Discuss how employees can observe details of the shooter in case the perpetrator leaves the premises.

    • Train people to take accurate head counts and to check others for injuries.

    • Conduct mock shooter drills.

    The response to an active shooter situation will be determined by the particular circumstances. It is important to assess the situation and make the best choices for the individual event.

    If an active shooter enters your workspace, call the police and give the location and description of the shooter if possible, and attempt to negotiate with the shooter, but do not attempt to overpower them with force — that should be the last resort.

    When possible, evacuate the building if it appears safe to do so. This may need to be through a window or back door. The safest exits in an emergency may not be the main hallways or doors—well-marked exits could be targets for potential shooters. It is crucial not to assume help will quickly come to evacuate the location as active shooter incidents are the most chaotic, confusing and difficult scenes to manage. The first responders’ priority will be to contain the shooter. If you are able to and decide to flee the building, have an escape route in mind, bring a cell phone, keep your hands visible and do not stop to assist wounded victims or move them. Instead, tell the police where they are located.

    If there are no safe escape routes, a lock down might be a better choice. Immediately notify the police of where you are, and conceal yourself in a room that can be locked or barricaded. Turn off the lights and stay away from doors and windows to create the impression that no one is there. When the police arrive, move slowly, keep your hands visible and follow all instructions. 

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  • July 07, 2021 10:22 AM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from AAM

    The near term future is looking much brighter than it was in March 2020, when I published my first set of scenarios exploring how the COVID-19 pandemic might play out. While the death toll in the US has surpassed 600,000 (a grim statistic that falls between the middle and worst case scenarios I explored at the beginning of the COVID-19 shutdowns), cases and deaths are both trending downwards. Over forty percent of the US population is vaccinated, including over 76% of people sixty-five or older (the age cohort most grievously damaged by the coronavirus). Many states and municipalities are lifting restrictions, and as of the end of April, over 70 percent of US museums had reopened to the public.

    This progress doesn’t mean that museums can relax their planning, trusting that everything will continue to get better over the remainder of the year. The current promising trajectory could be disrupted by a number of factors, and scenario planning is just as important now as it was in spring 2020. In today’s post, I summarize recent findings that suggest a scenario in which the US recovery from the pandemic slows, and we experience new surges in some areas.

    Last week the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the Delta variant of the novel coronavirus, also known as B.1.617.2, is now considered a “variant of concern.” Research suggests that this variant, which was first identified in India, is 60 percent more contagious than the Alpha strain that originally dominated the US, and is associated with double the risk of hospitalization. While the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines seem to provide good protection against Delta, there is some laboratory evidence that they may somewhat less effective.

    At the time of the CDC announcement, the Delta variant was responsible for 10.3 percent of US Covid-19 cases, up 6 percent from only a week ago. Ten percent is about the “tipping point” at which when Delta began spreading rapidly through the UK, where it is now the dominant strain. Dr. Eric Topol, the founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, recently noted that as the Delta variant “doubles every seven to 10 days…when it gets to three weeks from now, this variant will be dominant. That means we have two to three weeks to just go flat out with vaccination to stop this trend.”

    Unfortunately, it doesn’t look likely we’ll be able to supercharge the vaccination rate in the US. Although 43.9 percent of the US population is fully vaccinated, the rate at which people are getting vaccinated has been slowing down, and some states have stalled at dangerously low levels: Mississippi 29%; Alabama  <31%; Arkansas, <33%; Louisiana, Georgia, and Wyoming all <34%, according to CDC data. Elsewhere in the country, there are localized communities with very low vaccination rates. (For example, in Borough Park, NYC less than 11% of the population is vaccinated, due to vaccine hesitancy among Hasidic Jews). And some demographic groups, such as children under the age of 12 and people who are immunocompromised, remain at risk because they aren’t yet eligible for or can’t safely use the vaccine.

    For all these reasons, museums—particularly museums in states or communities with low vaccination rates—should be prepared for the possibility of a local surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, and reimposition of precautions such as closures, limits on attendance, and mandatory masking. (The contagiousness and severity of Delta has prompted the British government to delay easing their coronavirus restrictions by a full month.) Even local surges could affect attitudes nationally about continued mask use, distancing, and willingness to visit museums.

    This isn’t a forecast or prediction, it’s just sketching, for your radar, a near term future that falls well within the bounds of the Cone of Plausibility. (I’d peg it to the “plausible” Zone in the following diagram of the Cone—the area which current knowledge suggests a set of conditions “could happen.”)

    What can museum people do?

    • Monitor local COVID metrics and announcements from the CDC, state and local government to track the effect Delta is having on your community.
    • Prepare a plan for responding to a COVID resurgence—including communications, internal procedures, and budgeting for reclosing and reopening.
    • Finally, even if things continue to improve in your community, remember that everyone is recovering (physically and psychologically) at their own rate, and for many the trauma of the past year will linger for a long time. Your staff and your community continue to need your support and understanding as we emerge from the pandemic.

    Never assume you know what the future will be, especially in such an unsettled year. Spending a little mental and emotional energy on scenarios now will make a potential crisis less costly.

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