Today continues the onslaught of evacuations caused by Hurricane Harvey. Watching streaming media out of Houston, you continually see mandatory evacuations being called for by city, county and state officials. One thing they stress is that you need to gather and pack all things that you consider valuable, including documents. Which leads me to the heart of this post. How to prep your vital documents for emergency evacuation, especially if you are only given minutes to get out.
First things first, if you have a safe or somewhere else you keep documents, you may wish to consider getting them all together and placing them in an airtight plastic container. That way, you can simply grab and go, and you have the original documents intact and with you. However, if you are in a situation where you are limited in the size of the content you can evacuate with you, you need to go digital. Digitally saving your documents can be done in a couple of different ways. And, the process can be done either long term, whenever documents come in, or on the fly.
On The Fly Digitizing Process
Let’s say you have a potential serious weather or event that may predicate your evacuation. You have 10-12 hours to prep in the case you have to go. You don’t have your documents safe. What to do? Very simple. Use your cell phone to digitize your documents. That way, you can have it on your person, and not have to worry about digging through papers to find what you need. Depending on how sensitize your documents are, you can use Google Drive to digitize AND save your documents to the cloud. If you choose to do that, you can use your phone to take a photo of the document, then save it as an image file or pdf document and store it in the cloud. How quick can it be done? Put a document on a flat surface, take a picture, then share it to a private folder in Google Drive. Again, this is an on the fly type solution, but at least it can get your documents saved.
Now let’s say you are watching the evacuations and hearing about folks needing to grab important documents. The second solution is to use a scanner and scan your documents and photos. If you have a printer/scanner/all in one unit, you can either use the scanning software that came with it, of you can download a program called NAPS from SourceForge.net. NAPS allows you to digitize documents and photos at varying degrees of clarity, and save the scanned document as JPG, PNG or PDF files. This is great because you can save it to an external jump drive or storage device that you can put in a waterproof bag and stick in your pocket. Does not take up much room, and can be pulled up from any computer.
This process can be started at any time by digitizing documents and saving them, then digitizing documents daily or weekly as needed. How long does it take to scan documents? Not long at all. Scanning documents at 100 DPI will give you a good quality scan that can be reprinted, and takes about 1 minute to scan in 10 pages. Then you can save the scanned documents page by page or as one as one large document. That takes about 30 seconds per page, or 30 seconds as one document. Scanning photos should be done at minimum 300 DPI (preferably 600 DPI) and takes about 2 minutes per photo to scan in, and 30 seconds per image to save as JPG or PNG. Once you have digitized your documents and photos, they are on a portable storage device, and you are good to go. You can also add the files to a secure compressed folder, and upload it to a cloud storage facility for access anywhere, even if you lose the portable storage device.
And while we are talking about emergency situations, remember to use your phone to document what is going on with the condition of your house or business via photos and videos. Why? Timestamps. Photos and videos automatically save the date and time when an image or video is captured, which is great for documenting things for insurance or FEMA adjusters. Also, you can use it to create an on the fly inventory of your house or business in the event of an emergency evacuation. Again, you can upload the photos and videos to your cloud storage and access it whenever you need it.
So take time to consider digitizing copies of your valuable documents and photos in the event of an emergency evacuation or just easy access. Snap photos on your phone to save JPG images of your documents mainly, or use a flatbed scanner to scan documents and images, then save to external portable storage or the cloud.
If anyone else has suggestions or thoughts on digital safekeeping of documents and photos, please leave your comments in the comment area below.