Fireproof safes, electronic copies, safe deposit boxes help preserve documents, keepsakes through disasters

Monday, Feb 02 2015 09:36 AM

Russ Wallace is prepared in case of disasters.

Copies of birth records, church records, family photos and information about his family tree are tucked away in safe locations with his kids and originals are stored in safe deposit lockers, said Wallace, a coordinator for this year’s disaster preparation awareness day.

“That way if something happens and we don’t have the originals with us, we have copies scanned in,” he said.

Keeping important and sentimental items and documents together in an off site location was once a popular suggestion, Wallace said.

“I guess it depends on how much you have,” he said. “I’ll tell you what we have. We have a lot of family history stuff that’s in a little storage room in the garage.”

The more common threats in this region are fires, said John Cummins, senior disaster program manager for the South Plains chapter of the American Red Cross. In the event of a fire, Wallace said the documentation of his family history could suffer — which is why he’s working on digital storage as much as he can.

The American Red Cross chapter assisted more than 385 people throughout the last calendar year, Cummins said.

“I think that was about 104 or 105 cases,” he said. “Most of them are larger families. That’s just the fire numbers.”

Sentimental items such as family photos are among the items more commonly missed after a disaster, Cummins said. “Another big thing we see (with) a lot of people is simple things like phone chargers or phone numbers to get a hold of people,” he said. “They didn’t grab their cell phone or it didn’t have that information.” Wallace said his family members are almost finished scanning and saving their photo collections, but digital storage isn’t the only way people can preserve their valuables during a disaster. Safe deposit lockers is an option

Dave Freriks, disaster coordinator for the Salvation Army of Lubbock, said storing items in a fireproof safe or safe deposit box at a bank can help keep those items out of harm’s way.

“Most people that can, usually buy a fireproof safe or get a safe deposit locker at a bank to put their really important papers in,” he said. “Keep (the safe) in a corner of the house or something where they can start looking for it if there is a fire. Most people should always have one, but not everybody can afford a little fireproof safe. You can get a pretty nice one for about $40. Considering that hassle that comes up afterwards, it’s not a bad investment.”

Finding a safe place or to store keepsakes is a gamble, Freriks said. “It’s hard to say where disaster is going to hit,” he said.

Fires often originate in the kitchen, but not always, Cummins said. Freriks added, “Don’t put them near the space heater or under the bed you’re going to be smoking in. Try to be smart about where you’ll keep these things you’re going to store. You’re sitting in your house. If something happens and you think, ‘I really, really would love to have that afterwards,’ then kind of put all that stuff in a separate place in the house. Then somehow — I don’t care if it’s a chest of drawers, in a space or whatever — have it where it could be found.”

Disaster awareness is always a conscious topic for Wallace, he said. But tips from previous disaster preparation awareness days sponsored by his church have helped him learn more. Preserving identification records and other items, including food, are other topics addressed during the event, he said.

Asked if having all identification records and sentimental items in one spot could pose an increased risk for theft, Freriks said thieves often go after material items with monetary value — not necessarily identification.

“If you’re worrying about getting robbed, you must have something valuable to be robbed,” he said. “Either, you know, really figure out how to secure your home — get an alarm system or find off site storage safe deposit lockers — but all that stuff on computers should be backed up somewhere on a flash drive stored off site safely so if you lose the computer, you don’t lose the data. Some things are just going to go.”

By ELLYSA GONZALEZ, Feb 1, 2015 

http://lubbockonline.com/local-news/2015-01-31/fireproof-safes-electronic-copies-safe-deposit-boxes-help-preserve-documents#.VcnG9GA2uok