AP NEWS

Saving treasures in a disaster

March 24, 2019
Recovering from home damage can take time, and homeowners should realize they will not be able to salvage everything.

Spring brings us wonderful warm days, that hint of summer, and then we will retreat to a cool snap reminding us winter still has its hold. In between these vacillating weather conditions can be some fairly violent storms which could result in homes being invaded by fallen trees, floods and even fire. When our homes are assaulted and we are assured life and limb are safe, the next order of business is to save family treasures we feel are irreplaceable.

There are a gazillion websites that offer advice on steps to take in trying to salvage a home hit with a disaster. They all stress not taking chances that could cause you bodily harm by entering your broken abode too soon. Such safety tips as making sure gas and electricity are turned off, the proper shoes and clothing are worn and, most important, that the structure is sound enough to enter are stressed. Look over some of these sites prior to starting a clean-up because this is not their first rodeo and they have sound advice to offer.

A few simple tasks a person can do to salvage some of their treasures once they gain access to their home are as follows. The first task is to get the right mindset, because it will be a given you are going to lose some dear possessions. Many of your things are going to be broken, chipped, soaked and smeared. You will need to realize before even starting the recovery that some items may not be able to be salvaged.

Hopefully a disaster victim has been able to save a camera or a phone with a camera to take photos of the damage. Take lots of pictures because if this is a widespread disaster your insurance agent may not be able to get to you as soon as you need them. Your photos will add to the proof needed for an insurance claim.

Paper and textile treasures, whether they are photos, business statements, books etc., need to be treated as soon as possible. If one can’t get them dry within 48 hours of the water damage, the best course of action is to seal them in a plastic bag and freeze them until such time when you or a qualified conservator can deal with them properly.

As treasures are unearthed they need to be handled with care. Older items such as antiques will be really fragile, especially if they are wet. Damp items need to be separated slowly with care, and photos and other artwork need to be taken out of frames so they can dry. Photos can be rinsed gently with clean water and hung to dry, not letting the image come in contact with any other surface.

Drawers and cabinets need to be emptied so the contents can dry out as well as the furniture itself. As these items are cleaned, refrain from rubbing because this will only grind the dirt in further. Needless to say, this is a labor-intensive job and any help a person can round up would be wonderful.

There are companies out there that do this on a routine basis and have the expertise and equipment to do it properly. This could relieve a person from much of the labor. If a person has internet access, any one of the multitude of sites that offer advice can be good guidance to get started. There are even phone numbers a person can call that will walk them through individual conservation techniques. If you live in a flood or storm plain it might be a good idea to do some research in advance and jot down a few numbers to call in this type of emergency.