Just one year ago, Hurricane Irma made landfall in beautiful Cudjoe Key, FL. As the Category 4 storm ascended through the center of the state, nearly every resident experienced strong winds and torrential rains. The effects led to billions of dollars in damage and over 7 million homes and businesses without power. Evacuated residents along coasts and inland waters arrived back to find destroyed drywall, family mementos, and furniture.
While Floridians are among the most experienced in preparing and weathering tropical systems, Irma was a devastatingly different hurricane. Before September 2017, storms like Hurricane Matthew (2016), Hermine (2016), and Charley (2004) caused power loss and extensive damage, but still weren’t mighty or perpetual enough to prevent an air of invulnerability or complacency. After Irma, the Sunshine State learned newfound lessons about expecting the unexpected, as well as the importance of our loved ones and our memories.
A Florida Family’s Experience with the Unexpected
After Hurricane Irma exited the state, it was impossible to escape the sweltering September heat – and mounds of pollen. The power stayed off for days. My client, Becky, was one of several Floridians waiting on electricity.
Becky’s daughter, now in college, was also home with her due to the storm and school closures. After they spent the day cleaning up debris in the yard, Becky took a dose of Benadryl to get a break from her allergies. As she slept, the power was finally restored. Unfortunately, a positive event soon turned into devastation, as the quick charge sparked a kitchen fire. Thankfully, her daughter was able to awake Becky and they both escaped. While no life was lost, the flames consumed her home and destroyed most of her belongings, including precious memorabilia and file backups on their computer.
“As part of a house downsizing and organizing project several years ago, I decided to digitize my hard-copy photos and our family scrapbooks,” Becky said. “My spare closet was filled with large plastic bins of photos and videos, as I raised my daughters just prior to the digital photography revolution. While my main motivation was to declutter, I discovered how priceless it was to have my photos and albums digitized after we lost our home.”
Days later, during cleanup, Becky remembered she had partnered with OXO to scan and backup her photo albums and place them in the “Cloud”. While she didn’t have the original photos and documents, her mementos were still safe. “We were so dazed, shocked, and overwhelmed with the experience, I thought we had lost all of our photos and scrapbooks, along with everything else,” Becky recounted.
“My daughters, ages 19 and 23, were devastated. A few weeks after the fire, when my head began to clear, it dawned on me that we had backed everything up! I kept my excitement under wraps and quietly remade the albums over a long weekend using Shutterfly.”
Since all of the 12 x 12 pages had been scanned page by page, it was easy for her to put them back together. “A few months later, on Christmas Day, once all of the other gifts were open, I told my daughters there was one last gift for them,” Becky told us. “When they opened the box with the copies of the photo albums, we all began to cry. All of the possessions lost didn’t mean a thing compared to the sense of loss we were dealing with over the photos – just about everything can be replaced except for them.”
Saving Your Family Memories from Disaster
Becky and her daughters were prepared and able to keep their memories – but not everyone is so lucky. A storm, fire, or damaging water event could come at any time. Prepare your family and home before disaster strikes to ensure you’re ready for anything. Here are a few helpful tips:
- Learn How to Save Your Photos: Every September, the Association of Personal Photo Organizers (APPO) celebrates Save Your Photos Month, which teaches Americans how to preserve photos, videos, and documents, in case of an unforeseen accident or disaster like a hurricane. Visit their website and access their resources to learn how to save your memories like a pro.
- Lean on the Experts: Follow me on Twitter and Facebook throughout the month of September to grab APPO’s most helpful tips. You can also use their handy online tool to find a professional photo organizer in your area.
- Prepare for Home and Family for Anything: While you explore how to organize, scan, and save your memories, browse gov’s Disaster Preparedness Month website. Their guide allows you to access hurricane, pet, and wildfire season toolkits, learn more about evacuation zones in your community, and watch informative preparedness videos.
Whether you’re a native Floridian or live in another part of the United States, it’s essential to be ready for both natural and human-made emergencies. Remember, there’s no substitute for preparation. If you have questions about preparedness or photo projects, I’m always only a click away. Now that we are at the peak of Hurricane Season, feel free to contact me for more information on how to protect and preserve your family’s photos and memories.