I am sitting here in Houston, waiting for Hurricane Ike to arrive. It’s 9AM and he’s not expected until around midnight but I’m nervous and not quite sure what to do. Arranging things around the house, most of it seems pointless. You never really know what’s going to happen until it happens. Will we flood? Will windows break from flying tree branches or patio furniture? Nobody can say for sure. But we are lucky and out of the way of such disaster that would require evacuating.
Two weeks ago, in the throes of Hurricane Gustav, I saw a photo online of a man walking in New Orleans, pulling a small red suitcase behind him. He was evacuating his home and everything that was important to him was in that small suitcase. A picture says a thousand words and that picture packed a punch. What would you put in that suitcase?
It reminded me of three years ago when Hurricane Katrina hit the gulf. We knew it was coming and had to make some big decisions about whether to leave or stay and if we were staying, how to protect our things. Isabelle (my business partner) and her family chose to evacuate, packing up their car and driving to Dallas. At the time, her photos were all digitized and on disks, which, with her computer, were loaded into the car and went along with her. My family decided to weather out the storm here in Houston. Moving the furniture away from the windows and taking down the artwork was the easy part. Protecting all the photos and memorabilia was nerve-wracking. First I pulled them into the office with me. Then I moved everything to a small second floor closet but then decided that if a tornado came through post-hurricane, they might get sucked into the sky. They finally ended up in the trunk of my car in the garage while we waited out the storm. I figured a force stronger than nature would have to lift my car out of my garage and pull the photos out of the trunk. Clearly, I wasn’t prepared.
Three years later, I am almost through the daunting task of digitizing and storing all my family’s photos. There are a couple thousand photos and several generations so it’s been a challenge getting them all organized and archived. But I do coach people all the time on the need to have their family photos archived so that if any type of natural disaster strikes and they get damaged or destroyed, there are archived copies somewhere; on disk in a safe deposit box, in an online storage site, or a copy safe with a relative somewhere else.
Think about what you and your family needs to do to get started now. Then do it.
As a fellow Houstonian and former Floridian, I know how you feel Stefani. Natural disasters, accidents and simply the passage of time has always threatened our most cherished family heirlooms.
But digital media now provides a safer, faster, more affordable method of preserving old photos, vintage film or video footage, one-of-a-kind audio recordings, personal records, and other unique archival material.
An entire lifetime of memories can fit on a single DVD and everyone should considered investing in this hedge against losing them for all time. It also makes sharing those memories so much easier.
You’re also right about distributing extra copies via disc and/or online. That’s because no one physical location is ever going to be 100% safe and secure. Family photo-sharing websites with built-in FTP services are particularly good for this.
In the short-term, best wishes to you and your family in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike.