Saturday, May 19, 2012

prevent the loss of your family photos and memories

One of the first things most people think/talk about if they've experienced a fire, flood or natural disaster is the loss of all their photos (assuming their loved ones are safe and well). Ask anyone what they'd grab if their house was on fire (and they knew all their loved ones were safe) - probably 99% would say they'd grab photos.

Disaster strikes suddenly and quickly so there usually isn't time to grab anything but yourself. But, it IS possible to rescue, recover and restore photos afterwards.

I personally experienced this a week before Christmas when my mom's house burned down. While we stood around lamenting the loss of our photos and how unfair it is I decided I'd look through the rubble and see if I could find ANYthing worth salvaging. I'm SO glad I did! What a find!

All our family albums were kept in one place - on shelves which happened to be in the hottest part of the fire. At first glance it just looked like a bunch of blackened ash. But I was able to pull the albums apart and open them up to find lots of photos still recognizable as photos. Some were completely untouched by the fire, some were badly damaged and some only mildly damaged by heat, smoke, fire retardant and water. 

To give you some perspective about the severity of the fire….My mum and her husband left the house at 8:45 to go to church. By 9:00 the house was fully engulfed in flames. The house was burned beyond repair and has been torn down so they can rebuild (fortunately they DID have insurance….so I highly recommend you get good comprehensive insurance if you don't already!)

Saltspring firefighter

the fire was so hot the car melted
this was within 15 minutes

fire photos are from Gulf Island Driftwood

once the fire was out

hottest part of the fire (epicentre) was this room
some of the albums

standing on TOP of the rubble (ceiling, books and junk)

I AM wearing gloves but we didn't have any masks at the time

Sadly, insurance companies won't pay for recovering burned and damaged photos but they will pay for one or two of your most special ones. So don't despair and think you've lost it all! There is hope and help.

anyway, back to the story…..

Once we had collected all the albums I brought them home, popped them in the deep freeze (critical move for preventing them from becoming further damaged by mould and mildew) and I've been recovering, scanning and restoring ever since. I have well over 7,000 photos which could have been completely lost if I hadn't gone looking for them. Besides the joy of still having family photos I've also had the great experience of discovering a lot about my history and ancestors.

Before disaster strikes….

Scan your photos (or have someone scan them for you), back them up and keep a copy somewhere else besides your home. 

After disaster strikes….

Once you know everyone is safe and well and the disaster/fire/flood has ended (and ONLY if it's SAFE to go into your house) collect all your albums if you can find them. Use gloves and masks to protect you from chemicals and fumes. 

If you can do it yourself find a freezer you can keep them in until you can do the work. You'll probably find you won't be able to do it all at once so the freezer is a MUST. The freezer will help prevent mould and mildew plus it's easier to pry the album pages and photos apart when they're frozen. 

If you need help scanning and restoring them please contact me ~ I can help. 

I'll be posting more in the future about the actual process of restoring photos so please check back.

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