Pro­tect­ing what’s pre­cious to us

If dis­as­ter strikes, be it fire or flood, how pre­pared will you be to guard valu­ables – and mem­o­ries?

The Star Malaysia - - Views - aunty@thes­tar.com.my June H.L. Wong

I USED to think my house was safe from floods. And ac­tu­ally, I still do. Af­ter all, it is a good two me­tres higher than the road which slopes gen­tly to­wards a big drain across from my prop­erty.

But then, many Pe­nan­gites prob­a­bly thought their homes were safe too. They never ex­pected ty­phoonlike winds and heavy rain that lasted 15 hours and floods that rose three to four me­tres, af­fect­ing even places like Kek Lok Si Tem­ple, sit­u­ated on high ground.

Those who had ex­pe­ri­enced flood­ing be­fore in their homes took pre­cau­tions but still could not save many items as the wa­ter rose higher than they thought pos­si­ble.

And so if the un­ex­pected, the unimag­in­able were to hap­pen and rain pours down on my part of Se­lan­gor for more than 15 hours, will my two-me­tre wall be able to hold back flood wa­ters from gush­ing into my house?

Much as I shud­der at the thought of a mud-filled house, dam­aged cars, fur­ni­ture and elec­tri­cal items, all these items can be re­paired or re­placed and most doc­u­ments like iden­tity cards, pass­ports and even birth cer­tifi­cates can be reis­sued.

But they will not be the same as the orig­i­nals. And that is what I fear los­ing most, to­gether with hand­writ­ten let­ters and my pho­tos taken with old-fash­ioned cam­eras which, to me, are ir­re­place­able.

So what can we do to pre­pare against dis­as­ters, be it an earth­quake, fire or flood that can de­stroy our homes and be­long­ings? Plenty, say the ex­perts.

As Luke Arm­strong writes in restora­tion­mas­terfinder.com, “as long as you (and your fam­ily) are safe and sound, get­ting back on your feet is just a mat­ter of per­se­ver­ance and time”.

But the bet­ter pre­pared you are for such an un­for­tu­nate event, the faster you will be able to re­build your life. To do that, the best bet is to en­sure the safety of your doc­u­ments.

“If you have all the re­quired doc­u­ments, you can eas­ily es­tab­lish your iden­tity, file an in­sur­ance claim, and re­cover or re­place most of your ma­te­rial pos­ses­sions,” adds Arm­strong.

These doc­u­ments in­clude birth cer­tifi­cates, ICs, pass­ports, mar­riage cer­tifi­cates, driv­ing li­cences, in­sur­ance poli­cies, proof of own­er­ship for prop­erty, ve­hi­cles, and other ma­jor pur­chases, wills and fi­nan­cial records like in­come tax re­turns, stocks and other in­vest­ments and credit card de­tails.

And where do we keep them? Well, some we carry in our wal­lets and purses – ICs, driv­ing li­cence and credit cards – but the rest has to be stored some­where.

A rec­om­mended solution is to put them into a file and lock it in a fire and wa­ter­proof safe. To de­ter thieves, the safe should be bolted onto the floor.

Or the file can be in a carry case which you can grab and run with when dis­as­ter strikes. I have some of my papers in such a bag but I now re­alise I need to add other doc­u­ments like the in­sur­ance poli­cies, fixed de­posit cer­tifi­cates and doc­u­ments be­long­ing to my mother and late fa­ther, which have im­mense sen­ti­men­tal value.

A pop­u­lar piece of ad­vice now is to go dig­i­tal and scan all doc­u­ments and store them on an ex­ter­nal hard drive, USB and in the cloud.

As for pho­to­graphs, those taken with our hand­phones can be stored dig­i­tally too. But what do I do about the many hun­dreds of printed pho­tos and their neg­a­tives that are kept in nu­mer­ous al­bums and boxes tucked away on my shelves?

I could of course scan them and up­load to thumb drives and FB but it would take me a long time to get it done. And I still want to keep those prints safe, as well as my par­ents’ photo col­lec­tion dat­ing back to the 1940s and Dad’s di­aries.

My fam­ily and I re­alised how pre­cious these pho­tos were when we were pre­par­ing a Pow­erPoint on Dad’s life for his fu­neral.

Be­ing able to flip through the photo al­bums, to take out in­di­vid­ual pictures and hold them in our hands and of­ten find­ing cap­tions on the back in Dad’s neat hand­writ­ing that told us who were in the shots, where and when they were taken, gave us a pow­er­ful phys­i­cal and emo­tional con­nec­tion to his past.

And it was pos­si­ble to do so with­out the need of a power source or hav­ing to log in to a de­vice to view those pho­tos.

I had that same feel­ing when I looked through and held Dad’s doc- uments, like his yel­lowed and tat­tered birth and mar­riage cer­tifi­cates and school records.

They may not be the Magna Carta or the Fed­er­a­tion of Malaya Agree­ment but, to me, they have the same value and grav­i­tas of be­ing orig­i­nals and not copies.

Still, I will scan these old and newer doc­u­ments and seal them in zi­ploc bags and keep them in a safe de­posit box. That at least should pro­tect them from fire and flood.

My prob­lem is with those di­aries and hun­dreds of pho­to­graphs, as I don’t think I can buy a home safe or rent a safe de­posit box big enough to store them.

All I can think of is to zi­ploc them too and put them in wa­ter­proof plas­tic con­tain­ers and place them at the high­est point of my house.

And hope I never have to ex­pe­ri­ence the mis­ery of try­ing to sal­vage them from a dis­as­ter. As Aunty was writ­ing this, Bastille’s song, “Things We Lost in the Fire”, kept play­ing in her head, es­pe­cially that last line: Flames – they licked the walls, ten­derly they turned to dust all that I adore.

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