I noticed headlines about the loss of hundreds millions of dollars of art from the flooding of New York Art Galleries. I had already been thinking of ways we all need to prepare for disasters ourselves.
I have written about disaster kits and preparations. Another thing I wanted to focus on was the items that are mourned the most if a whole household is lost. When a home is flooded or burned to the ground, all of the material things are gone. The victims are stunned at the loss which is usually covered by insurance. Donations and FEMA also help when there is no insurance.
However, there are priceless items that cannot be replaced with any amount of money. For most people, the first thing they grab when they have minutes to flee is the photo albums or pictures from the walls.
We can prepare in advance for that type of loss by having copies made of precious family pictures. Those of us into computers and digital photography can have our photographs scanned or digitally copied either at home or professionally. Copies of family pictures should be given to family members, especially those who live in other areas of the country.
Then if there is such a terrible loss of everything you own, you might get copies made from the photographs you gave to family members. Similarly if you had the photographs scanned and uploaded to a photo service online (such as Shutterfly.com), then you could have them reprinted and recreate a photo album or photo for the wall.
However, one shouldn’t count on one photo service to protect all your photographs. A photo service such as Kodak Gallery might just go out of business, and then all your photos are gone if you didn’t request a digital copy during the time they were available. I confess that I was so busy myself that I neglected to request DVDs of all my photographs from Kodak Gallery. They had copies of most of my very old pictures and many of my recent family pictures.
Luckily, they did transfer the all the photos to Shutterfly.com. However, Kodak Gallery also had the ability to download the large digital file of the original picture. That capacity is not available on Shutterfly.com. There are other photo services, such as Smugmug (www.smugmug.com) which also allow one to download the full-sized picture. I have not yet explored these services, but I have relatives who have photos stored there.
When I get extra time (ha!), I plan to explore this option as well so that I can have a backup to my actual photographs other than what I have on my computer and my backup drives. If the house were to burn down, my computer and backup drives would all be destroyed. An online backup would be invaluable. I do have the ability to reprint most of them from Shutterfly, but would like to get back full-sized images as well.
In addition to photographs, we may have other items that have been handed down through the generations. Some of these may be documents such as marriage certificates, immigration papers, etc. These can be photographed and stored in the same way as photographs.
Other items such as bibles or clothing (such as wedding dresses or military uniforms) or knick knacks may be precious to the family as well. I have seen professional articles about how to archive and store such items. If you have such items, search online for ways to preserve them. I took a class at the historical museum once that also discussed how to preserve these articles. But that would not replace them if they were destroyed. I can only suggest photographing them as well.
In addition, I know of at least one family that donated precious items to a local historical museum. It turned out that a disaster later destroyed their home and everything that was in it. But the family heirlooms that had been donated were protected by the greater resources of the museum and were still available for family members to see.
Another storm is approaching the New York area bringing snow and possible storm surges. I heard people were asked to evacuate. Please, if they say to leave the area, then leave and go back later for things of value. Your life is too valuable to risk and first responders should not have to risk their lives to save yours.