Risk Assessment

As an artist, you acquire tools, supplies, and an inventory of finished work through a lot of hard work over a long period of time. An unexpected loss can be career-threatening. Conducting a risk assessment is critical to protect your career, your studio, and your livelihood.

A risk assessment is when you identify the people, property and things that may be vulnerable if you are affected by a disaster.

Protecting your career is a process of recognizing potential risks, taking action to protect against or minimize risks where possible, and knowing what to do in case of an emergency to minimize losses and recovery as quickly as possible. What would happen if your home, studio, or equipment was damaged? Your business was interrupted or destroyed? You lost your customers or suppliers? Your suffered financial loss or were sued? While we don’t like to think of them, risks are present in our practice and livelihood.

TAKE ACTION: Download and/or print this PDF to learn more about key areas which should be assessed in your facility, to help plan for and limit damage.

When we are planning for disasters, some may be more likely to happen than others.

You will want to think about the risk of, and impact from smaller emergencies, where potentially a portion of your building or a limited number of items from your organization may be damaged. But, what will happen in a large-scale disaster when your building is totaled, along with its contents? And beyond that, consider the potential damage from region-wide disasters.

The geographic location of your studio or facility will definitely make a difference in the types of hazards, threats, and vulnerabilities that you may face. If you are near a river, creek, or bayou, the chance for flooding will certainly increase. Those in less-populated areas, where there are tall fields of dry grass may face wildfire threats, and those who live in more urban areas may face fires caused by business, industry, or even arson. Additionally, you may be susceptible to disasters related to nearby airplane, railroad, or automobile accidents if you are located in a city or near a transportation base. Tornadoes, earthquakes, blizzards, and volcanic eruptions are other risk factors that vary by geographic region.

In the Houston area, there are a number of natural disasters that have happened, or are possible, due to both geographical and man-made reasons.

  • Severe weather, including heavy rain, windstorms, drought damage to building foundations, and roof deterioration due to heat.
  • Flooding, especially related to tropical storms and hurricanes.
  • Pest invasions, including Fire Ants, Snakes, Bees, Wasps, Bats, and other insects and animals.

Man-made disasters which can be caused by location or facilities problems include:

  • Crimes such as vandalism, bomb threats, and terrorism or hostile events should be considered.
  • Leaky or damaged roof structures, and clogged or damaged gutters and drains, which can result in water damage.
  • Infrastructure system problems, including old plumbing and pipes, unmaintained heating and air conditioning systems, or faulty wiring.
  • The lack of smoke or heat detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and lack of fire protection systems such as extinguishers and sprinklers.

TAKE ACTION: Download and/or print this PDF to help you assess your institution's vulnerability based on your location and condition of your facility.

The best way to detect these types of hazards, vulnerabilities, and risks to your systems is to be familiar with (and make sure all of your staff is also familiar with) your building. Lead a tour of your building, and have staff document the concerns they see. An additional approach is to invite fire, police, and other emergency responders to tour your building and point out any problem areas.

Once you have done some initial tours of the buildings to assess risks, set a schedule where you or another staff person tours the building twice a week to notice any problems – Monday morning and Friday afternoon are prime times to do this type of tour.

When you are doing your facility tour, document what you see – both good and bad!

TAKE ACTION: Download and/or print this PDF checklist to help you inspect your facility. For planning a fire safety inspection, this PDF is also very helpful.

As an individual artist, conducting a risk assessment is an important first step in being better prepared for facing, surviving and recovering from natural disasters.

Here are a few tips to protect your studio:

Take a look at your studio’s building and infrastructure. How vulnerable is it to damage from a hurricane, flood other natural disaster? Is it a modern, updated building, or an older one that may have been constructed under outdated building codes? What areas could be hazardous?

Routinely inspect and maintain the equipment you use. Make sure all parts are in working order to address a potential problem before it occurs. Schedule regular maintenance inspections, particularly for electric equipment, to reduce the chance of fire.

What risks might be present for your family members, studio assistants, interns, employees, suppliers, buyers or clients?

Your things can include documentation, both digital and hardcopy, your artwork, inventory, or contractual obligations, like commissions or exhibitions.