Texas. Florida. Puerto Rico. California. Nebraska. There have been far too many recent examples of massive storms with massive casualties, including precious family photo collections. However, you don’t need a large-scale natural disaster to have water-damaged photos. Even a leaky pipe or an overflowing bathtub can wreak havoc on those images we hold so dear. It’s much easier to be prepared, to have scanned prints and backed up everything. However, because so many of us aren’t prepared, I want to share with you concrete actions you can take to be ready before a disaster occurs.
Backup; your computers and hard drives, including your photo collections. Keep a copy of your backup secure in the cloud. Bring your backup drive with you, and store another copy at a friend’s house that is out of the storm’s path.
Find Your Photos; Do a sweep through your basement, first floor, and garage. Do you have boxes or bins of memories stored there? Are your albums on a low bookshelf or coffee table? What about framed photos on walls or mantles? Gather them up so you can protect them. Children may be able to help with this step.
Protect Your Printed Photos; Wrap photos in double layers of plastic, sealed tight. This could mean zip-top bags or a plastic garbage bag sealed with duct tape. Smaller baggies secured inside a larger garbage bag is a good system. If any of your frames have sharp edges, pad them, so they don’t rip the bags. Don’t forget to LABEL THEM. As an added precaution, you can put the wrapped packages in a plastic bin. Plastic bins may be water-resistant but are not watertight. Floods can lift and carry heavy boxes, and can tip them over, so the water gets in. Make sure everything in the bins is wrapped in plastic.
Get To Higher Ground; Move the bins of wrapped up photos to the highest level of your home and choose an upper shelf of a bedroom closet or any closet on a top floor. A closet will keep bins from floating around or tipping.
If your photos are ruined by water, don’t despair. You can actually save waterlogged photos. Watch this free course developed by professional photo organizer Kathy Stone after the devastating floods in Calgary, Working With Water Damaged Photos.
Cathi Nelson, author of Photo Organizing Made Easy, is the founder of APPO (Association of Professional Photo Organizers), a membership organization dedicated to helping thousands of entrepreneurs from around the globe build successful photo preservation and organizing businesses.