By Whitney McGowan, FamilyLink.com, Inc.
I have been keeping a daily journal now for 20 years. I have a large box in my house filled with more than 25 journals. These journals are very valuable to me and I am always a little worried that some natural disaster is going to strike here in Orem, Utah, and I am going to lose all of my work.
This may sound a little crazy, but last year, more than 220,000 people were killed in natural disasters. Billions of dollars were spent throughout the world on mitigating the effects of natural disasters. Although some items can be replaced, rebuilt or renewed, many valuables such as photos, books, family heirlooms, journals, birth certificates, passports, religious documents, etc. cannot be easily replaced, and some are completely irreplaceable.
What can you do to protect your valuables? Here are a few ideas
Put your content online. If you have photos, scan them and put them online. If you have books that are meaningful to you, scan them as well and put them online.
Make duplicates. Just in case one of your copies is destroyed by a natural disaster, it is a relief to know that you have an extra copy (even though it may not be the original copy). Duplication also provides protection for computer crashes, accidents, intentional damage, etc. The media life of paper is 100+ years. The media life of microfilm is approximately 500 years. Computer diskettes will last 2-5 years. A CD-ROM generally lasts between 5-50 years.
Create a filing system on your computer containing your valuables. Create a system that allows for quick and easy access. Make sure to clearly label and date your content.
Keep your valuables away from dust, light, and smoke. Be sure to store them in a place with a temperature between 45-65 degrees. Store your master copies and spare copies in different locations.
Place your valuables in fire-resistant, waterproof containers.
The National Archives has prepared a pdf titled, A Primer on Disaster Preparedness, Management and Response: Paper-Based Materials. This guide was created to help individuals take a pro-active approach to disaster preparation with respect to cultural property. Additional ideas on how to protect your valuables are provided.