There once was a man who was so afraid of earthquakes that he did everything he possibly could to prepare for one. He had water, food, and first aid kits lining the walls of his ocean front home. He had his bookcases and cabinets bolted to the wall. Everyone in his home knew where to run and where to hide when “the big one” eventually hit.
Then one morning the big one came. He and his family ran into the spots they had practiced, into doorways, under the heavy tables. It seemed like an eternity before the rumbling stopped. Everyone just looked at each other, scared but smiling. They’d done it! They were okay. They had food, they had shelter – this wasn’t so bad.
The man rushed to the door followed by his family. The sun was shining, and they were thrilled to be alive. Then one of the kids heard a strange roar. Seconds later they could all hear it. And then they saw it. A ten-foot wave was headed right at them. They ran up the street, up the hill as fast as they could. They made it to the top just in time to watch the water swallow up their neighborhood, their home and with it, all their supplies. The man looked at his wife and said, “That was strange. I never saw it coming.”
The moral of the story? Just because you’re ready for what you think might happen, it doesn’t mean you’re ready for something you would never expect in a million years.
So the next time you’re in your living room, take a moment to look around you. How many keepsakes are there in your home that would be in jeopardy if you “didn’t see it coming”?
A friend of ours kept putting all of her keepsakes in her basement. Even though she knew a basement probably wasn’t the best place to keep things like her wedding albums, her dress and her kids’ artwork that she treasured so much, Carol kept telling herself that she would get down there sometime soon and get everything organized so she could bring it back upstairs and into a safer place. One night during a particularly bad thunderstorm, her shoes squished as she stepped down into a basement full of water. Something floating by hit her leg. As Carol reached down to get it, saw what it was and burst into tears. It was her wedding album.
Scott Haskins, noted art restorer and author of “How To Save Your Stuff From A Disaster,” stopped by to talk about the advice he has given his clients over the years to help the safeguard their art, historical items, glass and other collectibles.
Although Scott usually works with people to restore or secure their wall mounted fine art, he also consults with clients and museums to ensure that their collectibles will be secure in the event of an earthquake. Here are a few of the tips that he shared.
Prepare your collectibles and keepsakes ahead of time by creating an inventory of items that are emotionally, financially or historically valuable to you and your family, so that you know which items need to be secured. Take photos of those valuables. If you have any documentation on the items, such as ownership papers, authentication or appraisals copy them and place them with your home inventory. And don’t forget to keep copies of the photos and documentation in another city as well as your own, for safekeeping in case of a regional emergency. For tips on creating a list of valuables, see our section on How To Create Your Home Inventory.
Remember that anchoring breakable items down so they don’t break during an earthquake, not only protects your collectibles from breakage, but it also protects you and your family AFTER the earthquake. Broken items like crystal, glassware, collectibles, and ceramics can make it hazardous for you to get out of your home or to move around safely to get things back in order.
Strap down tall furniture that can topple over. Carol Burnett once told a story about the Northridge Earthquake. She always slept on the same side of the bed – in fact she didn’t even bother turning down the other side. The night of the quake, for some reason, she couldn’t sleep and tossed and turned so much that she ended up on the other side of the bed. As the quake started to strike her home, an unanchored television set from the bookcase beside her bed flew out of the bookcase and landed right on the side of the bed where she normally would been lying. Talk about a close call! And all of it could have been prevented by simply strapping her TV to the bookcase and anchoring the bookcase to the wall.
Consider getting earthquake insurance. If you live in earthquake country, you definitely need it. However, this past year, don’t forget that earthquakes struck in the Midwest and along the East Coast. So consider it even if you don’t live in “earthquake country”. Earthquake insurance can be a relatively cheap add on to your policy.
Anchor down collectibles on shelves that can fly around and cause damage. There is a surprisingly easy, do-it-yourself anchoring technique, using a product called QuakeHold (also known as Museum Wax). It’s a putty-like substance that you place on the bottom of your glass or china figurines or vases – anything that would break if it fell off a shelf and hit the floor. Scott has a short video on his web site that demonstrates the easy way to anchor your items.
Make sure that copies of your important documents are printed on a laser printer if possible, onto acid-free, buffered paper. Acid-free paper will extend the life of your documents by years.
Speaking of a family going through the completely unnecessary loss of keepsakes, this heartbreaking story came out of the 2011 Japan Earthquake: “With each passing day, more and more poignant stories of survivors and victims are emerging. Immediately after the quake, Katsutaro Hamada, 79, fled to safety with his wife. But then he went back home to retrieve a photo album of his granddaughter, 14-year-old Saori, and grandson, 10-year-old Hikaru. Just then the tsunami came and swept away his home. Rescuers found Hamada’s body, crushed by the first floor bathroom walls. He was holding the album to his chest, Kyodo news agency reported. ‘He really loved the grandchildren. But it is stupid,’ said his son, Hironobu Hamada.”
The saddest part of this story is that it was completely avoidable. If the family had simply scanned those photos and left copies with a relative in Tokyo, or uploaded them onto a flash drive, onto Dropbox or an online photo sharing site, they would have had their photos and Hamada would have had the rest of his life to enjoy them.
A Few More Tips
Put keepsakes where you can get to them easily. You don’t want to be running around during a tornado warning or wildfire trying to find Great-Grandma’s crystal vase!
Do you have a great deal of vital personal or business documents that must be kept safe? SentrySafe makes file cabinets that are fireproof, waterproof, and crushproof – basically capable of withstanding a 30-foot drop. The cabinets come with high-security locks designed to withstand picking and drilling. The only downside is that they’re very expensive, but for a business, or for people who must keep critical documents safe, it could be well worth the investment.
If you live in an area with a regular disaster season – like hurricane or wildfire season, consider placing your breakable keepsakes in a safe deposit box or in your evacuation location during disaster season. Place keepsakes in a cabinet with doors that close. If you live in earthquake country, make sure that the cabinet is secured to the wall so that it won’t fall over in an earthquake, and put QuakeHold Museum Wax on the bottom of the figurine and the back of the wall so it will be more resistant to shaking. In an area prone to flooding, place valuables on a high shelf above any previous water marks.
And if you have a wine collection – whether it is just a few bottles or a room full – check out QuakeGuardian wine bottle fasteners. Created to safely secure wine bottles in their wine racks for earthquakes up to 8.0, QuakeGuardian is quickly becoming the fastener of choice for wine connoisseurs worldwide.
Have Fun Getting Your Stuff Together! We’ll talk later…
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