The emergency response and rapid impact assessment following a disaster or incident should be done only in coordination with competent, relevant local or national authorities and humanitarian agencies.
If the cultural property or the impacted area is under the control of army, police, or other authorities or relief agencies, the cultural heritage damage assessors should obtain the needed permissions or agreements before beginning work on the site.
Ideally, trained cultural heritage professionals with experience in disaster risk management and impact assessment should lead missions for the damage assessment of monuments, sites, historic cities, collections, and museums.
However, in an emergency situation, when an extensive area is impacted and there is neither enough time nor enough resources, collaboration between heritage professionals and other relevant groups is warranted. Police, army, humanitarian first responders, students, and community volunteers are encouraged to join the damage assessment groups under the leadership of a trained heritage professional.
A disaster-impacted area or a damaged building or site is usually an unsafe environment for first responders. Therefore, before starting any on-site surveys or assessments the safety and security of the site must be ascertained. During the course of their work, the members of a damage assessment team may be exposed to potentially life-threatening hazards from broken, damaged, and unstable structures; contaminated materials and hazardous waste; electrical systems; and – in war zones – unexploded ordnance.
Because of these omnipresent dangers, the damage assessment teams should wear appropriate protective clothing, including a hard hat or helmet, safe shoes, protective gloves, and facemasks to protect themselves from dust, asbestos, and other pollutant inhalation. They should also carry first aid kits.