Tuesday’s Tip/Disasters: Flat Roofs Always Leak

This post is part of 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History (focus this week on natural disasters) and the Geneabloggers Tuesday’s Tip blogging prompt.

Here is the 52 Weeks question: “Week 10: Disasters. Did you experience any natural disasters in your lifetime? Tell us about them. If not, then discuss these events that happened to parents, grandparents or others in your family.”

The closest I’ve come to living through a natural disaster was last year’s Snowmageddon in the D.C. area. If you’re interested in reliving that, please see the story, starting here.

This week’s topic got me thinking about what to do to prevent damage to your family history records and artifacts in the case of a natural disaster.

I concentrated on archives and preservation for my MLS degree. One of the classes I took was fascinating — we studied the various ways different types of materials can deteriorate — my professor actually collects damaged books and other items on purpose and brought them in by the cart-load to each class so we could see how problems develop and the effect different types of damage have on documents, etc.

Of course, we also talked about how to prevent such damage. Keeping valuable documents out of harm’s way is a biggie. Here’s the number-one tip the professor impressed upon us constantly throughout the class:

Flat Roofs Always Leak

And it’s true. They have not developed a fool-proof system for draining the top of buildings with flat roofs. I work in a relatively new building and they’re constantly chasing down the sources of leaks during heavy rainstorms. Once they patch one problem area, the water just travels to the next one. It always finds a way.

So how does this affect you? Consider where you’re storing your precious family photos, documents and heirlooms. Are you in a building with a flat roof? I suppose you could move, but let’s say you don’t have much choice in the matter — how can you protect your valuables from the inevitable?

There are plenty of protective containers for items like photographs, papers and books. Make sure you are storing items in waterproof containers. Are they in the attic? If yes, bad idea. Not only does that put items first in line for water damage in the case of a roof leak, but most attics do not have the temperature and humidity controls of other areas of a building. This also can lead to damage caused by moisture (the same goes for basements).

Let’s say you have scanned everything as an added precaution. Where is your computer? What would happen if it got wet and your hard drive was fried — make sure you are backing up regularly and in multiple ways. I recommend having an online back-up in the cloud, a back-up to an external hard drive and a back-up of items to CD or DVD. Now, let’s take it a step further.

Let’s say you’ve done all of that. What happens if even those DVDs get damaged? Consider making duplicates of your DVD copies and sending one or more to relatives in far-flung locations. This was a tip shared by Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive at Rootstech. His advice was to send your back-up copies as far away as possible.

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