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LA Fires. 5 tips To Make Sure your Stuff Is Safe.
From:
Scott M. Haskins --  Art Damage Expert Witness Scott M. Haskins -- Art Damage Expert Witness
,
Tuesday, September 01, 2009


If you are not at risk from the fire, you may be concerned about smoke damage.
 
For Immediate Release

Contact Scott M. Haskins 805 564 3438

Fax (805) 568-1178

Southern California Fires! 5 tips to make sure your "stuff" is safe.

Did you see on the news how fast those fires moved?! Pushed by the Santa Ana winds, the fires gave residents minutes to escape leaving most everything behind besides what could be grabbed and carried. So, how do you prepare for something like that?!!! If you had just 10 minutes to run, what do you take?!

When the Weather Channel starts to warn you that something's coming your way, primeval instincts kick in… Then "it" hits. Scott M. Haskins, a Santa Barbara resident (where they have had 3 major fires in the last 12 months!), preservation specialist and national disaster response expert says, "After everyone is safe and accounted for, the biggest reason people mourn after a disaster is for the lost memories, things that can't be paid for by insurance: family history, personal keepsakes and beloved memorabilia."

"Fire is a harrowing force to contend with," Haskins said of the fire in LA on Sept. 1st. "Besides the threat of exposure to fire by some, there are many far and wide whose household items, heirlooms and keepsakes are affected by the smoke. And there's also the element of water. Sometimes, the water people use to wash their smoked items off does more damage than the smoke… depending on the type of item. Get some advise/help first."

The first 4 important tips, Haskins says, will give you a better chance of saving your stuff. Besides the items that pull on your heart strings, apply the following suggestions to legal docs, prescriptions, passports etc that will be a hassle to get copies of afterwards.

1. Make copies of documents and photos and keep them someplace else (out of the area). Perhaps you can keep an electronic copy and a photo copy at home and keep the original in a safer location. The ink on good laser copies won't run with water. Photocopy, photocopy, photocopy. Many photos kept on hard drives can be copied to relatives. If you do this for other items of value (not for family history reasons or legal reason), this suggestion will be of the utmost importance for you if your have to deal with insurance companies.

2. Think for a moment about where you will store important, irreplaceable items! If you have to keep your originals in your possession, consider a floor safe in the garage (if it won't take on water). One of my co-workers lost everything this last year in a Santa Barbara fire. But the stand alone safe, which was unrecognizable after the fire, kept documents in good enough condition to copy them and save the info.

3. Archival "page protectors" can be found at an office supply store. They won't say "archival" on the packaging, but the plastic they use these days is all good. If you have the magnetic photo albums of the olden days or if your old plastic sleeves smell "funny", they are doing damage to your documents. This is the easy cheap way to protect papers and photos. Put the loose page protectors in a 3 ring notebook of your choice. It's easier to grab a labeled book of known photos than a box of what you think might be important. Fires are often accompanied by water. So, this idea will also help protect your photos and papers if the fire gets put out by firemen

4. Store your important docs (ie, passports, certificates, prescriptions, love letters, most important photos) in a Tupperware like container with a lid and keep it where you can grab and go. This will also protect against water, insects, spilled drinks, grandchildren etc.

The final 5th MEGA tip for being prepared: Richard Holgate, International Society of Appraiser (www.faclappraisals.com) says, "A vague idea of what something is worth will be of no importance when it comes time to discuss claims with your insurance company. If you have several items appraised at the same time, it will cost you less per item than if you have them done separately. An appraisal, good docs, good photos will expedite your insurance claim a lot." This suggestion won't help you "save your stuff", but it will help you bounce back. (keep copies of these important papers somewhere else)

What is peace of mind worth? Haskins promises you, "If you will do even one of these tips, you'll save yourself much heartache later" Do something for your peace of mind. Be better prepared.

Scott M. Haskins, an emergency preparedness expert (www.preservationcoach.com) is the author of "How to Save Your Stuff from a Disaster," (www.saveyourstuff.com) a non-technical book with instructions on how to protect and save your family history, heirlooms and memorabilia. Haskins, has worked in both Europe and the U.S. as a professional conservator for the last 33 years. He has been personally involved in nine "major" California disasters: three earthquakes (Silomar '71, Whittier '89 and Northridge '94), four fires (Santa Barbara '90, two in 2008, 2009 and Oakland '93) and one flood (Santa Barbara '95) and has consulted with people on innumerable other accidents in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas and the hurricane states. He works with the general public, historical societies, museums, corporations, private collectors, art galleries, state governments and the federal government. He is an expert witness in the Los Angeles Supreme Court system and on the part of the federal government regarding public art issues. He has done consultation work for Pope John Paul's family, the Shroud of Turin project and the Getty Conservation Institute among many others. He also wrote a booklet on earthquake response of which several 500,000 were distributed in Los Angeles after the Northridge Earthquake.

 
Scott M. Haskins
Conservator
Fine Art Conservation Laboratories
Santa Barbara, CA
805-564-3438
805 568 1178