Watching nonstop hurricane and wildfire coverage for the last several weeks, it’s hard not to ride a roller coaster of emotions – excruciating loss and grief, and hope and healing when we see how we care for each other. Over and over again, watching people wade through waist-high water with a garbage bag of belongings, or seeing people load their cars in a panic with their most precious belongings, you can’t help but put yourself in that position and wonder what you would take. In a crisis, when water is literally rising in a home, victims tend to grab their loved ones, and maybe a change of clothes, but little else. With more time to prepare, others might grab important documents, a computer backup drive, family photo albums and clothes for several days. I think these events make us all think about what it is we treasure and how we care for those things to the best of our ability.
People: As we’ve heard repeatedly over the past few weeks, things are replaceable. But people and pets are our most prized possessions. We should make sure we care for those first and foremost before worrying about anything else.
Data: Computers and other gadgets can be replaced. But you can protect your data by regularly backing up the contents of your computer via Dropbox, Google Drive or an external hard drive. Set this process up to happen automatically, particularly with digital photos.
Paperwork: With extra evacuation time, you can gather important documents and place them in a plastic bag. These might include a copy of your insurance policies, vital documents such as social security cards, passports, birth and marriage certificates, copies of prescriptions, financial account numbers and medical information for your pets. You can also scan these documents and store them in the cloud (in a password protected file!) for remote access in an emergency.
Photos: Protect precious print photos by scanning them so you have a digital backup available. You certainly don’t need to scan every single photo you’ve ever printed. But those special pictures (e.g. a handful of wedding pictures, photographic evidence of some of the most important moments in your life from the pre-digital age, some of your own childhood photos) can be scanned and stored digitally in the cloud. Scan My Photos (scanmyphotos.com) is my go-to service for this task. In Chapel Hill and Durham, MVP Video (mvpvideoduplication.com) can preserve and duplicate media such as VHS, 8mm and movie film.
China, silver, furniture, clothing … these are just belongings. Take the time now to walk around and snap photos in each room in your house. Open cabinets and drawers so you have a photographic inventory of your possessions. This will be helpful information to have for an insurance claim. There may be the rare antique that came from a great-great-grandmother, and of course, it would be sad to lose it. But a little planning can go a long way towards preserving other things that you treasure most.