Why Photos Matter in the Midst of Disaster

Flip-Pal Cares sprang into action in Union Beach, NJ to help recover family photos that had washed up on the beaches after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. That outreach led Gordon Nuttall, CEO of Couragent and the inventor of the Flip-Pal mobile scanner, to commit the company to helping people prepare for natural disasters and everyday accidents that could wipe out their photos. Photos matter in the midst of disaster. With September being International Save Your Photos Month and recent storms along the east coast of the US, the topic of preparedness is front and center yet again.

Click here to view an interview with Gordon describing the Flip-Pal team’s support of International Save Your Photos Month.

union beach family

It might seem odd that while surrounded by disaster relief services, which were helping to restore and rebuild residences and provide vital life services, that there would be a focus on recovering lost family photos.

Mary Danielsen, one of the organizers of Restoring Union Beach Memories, summed it up this way just one month after Hurricane Sandy devastated the little bay-shore town:

Destroyed house

“The residents of Union Beach, New Jersey are still in shock. They want their normal life back, but they’ve been forced to accept the reality that their entire life is about to change. The Union Beach photo recovery project may not seem like a priority when the health, safety and infrastructure of an entire community have been decimated. However, when residents take a breath and look around at what remains of their homes and cars, the first thing they say is ‘I wish I had my photos.’

Our photos are our memory keepers. They act as placeholders in time and enrich our family histories with stories to be passed down to the next generation. Without them, details are easy to forget.

fp water damage 01

Get Organized!

Once scanned, the photos were bagged and organized in bins so that people could claim them. In addition, we wanted to make sure that people knew about the free photo restoration services being provided by various volunteers—both locally and on social media sites such as Facebook.

We discovered that organization is very important during the entire process—from discovering the photos, to cleaning and scanning them and then making sure that both the digital images and the actual photos could be easily found. You can’t imagine the joy people express when they get their photos back.

Scouts helping scan photos

Scout’s Honor: Be Prepared

We had many different volunteers assisting us with the recovery of these photos and reuniting them with families. We were very grateful for their hard work, especially the Boy Scouts who helped clean and scan photos. With the motto “Be Prepared” in mind, I could not help but think of a few ways that all of us can be prepared for any type of disaster that could cause family photos and other important items to disappear in an instant.

Save Your Photos Value Pack

Click image to shop for the Save Your Photos Value Pack

  • Scan Your Photos NOW. Many of the residents who thought their possessions—including photos and documents—would be safe, were surprised at what was washed away. Put together a plan to scan all your precious photos and other documents (family history as well as legal documents) and get started on securing these items right away. The Flip-Pal Save Your Photos Value pack is the ideal solution.
  • Get Organized. Whether you are preparing to secure your photos now, or working to recover them after a disaster, make sure you have a method of storing your digital files. This could be using folders or creating a special file naming convention. Your goal should be to quickly find the item you need.
  • Perform Multiple Backups. It makes no sense to store your files on a USB flash drive if you then store it next to your computer or with other items that could be lost or damaged in a disaster. Secure your backup files in another location, such as a fire-proof safe, a safety deposit box or with another family member.
  • Take Advantage of the Cloud. An even easier method of storing your digitized files is to use cloud storage sites such as Dropbox. You’ll always have access to them as long as you have a computer or a mobile device and an Internet connection.

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