A Reality Check

Have you ever been in a situation that makes you really, and I mean REALLY, REALLY, REALLY think about things? Well this happened to me last week, and made me realise a lot of things.

Firstly let me explain a few things. I live in the Adelaide Hills. I have for most of my life (I say ‘most’ as there was a short stint of metro living at one stage), and living in the hills brings with it the danger of bushfires. I was in primary school when when one of Australia’s worst bushfires ‘Ash Wednesday‘ hit, and I still have very vivid memories of that. Anyone who has been through a disaster (fire, flood, earthquake etc) will agree, that it is something you NEVER forget.

The Advertiser, 18 January 2014

The Advertiser, 18 January 2014

Anyway last week was a week to go down in history. Adelaide’s history anyway. And hopefully one that won’t be repeated anytime soon (or hopefully ever). Adelaide almost broke their all-time maximum temperature of 46.1C. We didn’t quite, only making it to 45.1C. However apart from that, we did have 5 consecutive days of over 40C temperatures, which together with the hot nights making a decent sleep impossible, has been simply exhausting.

By Thursday and Friday with the ground completely dried out from whatever little moisture might have been in it, together with high winds, the fire danger rating was sky-high (“catastrophic” is the technical term). And for the first time since Ash Wednesday I actually packed up some things and moved them out of my house.

I decided to do that rather than face the regret of losing precious items later.

Sure I had a “surely it won’t happen to me” feeling, but I also know that it only takes one spark, one ember, or one lightning strike and the whole place is alight.

Obviously if you are in an extreme situation you make sure you and your family are all ok, and nothing else matters. But if you’re given time to get stuff out, what would you pack?

I basically had about 15hrs or so to think about what to pack. And it’s interesting what I came up with.

Most of my important files are already backed up, and are offsite, so that wasn’t an issue. But I began realising just how many photographs of my own (of the pre-digital era) that I hadn’t scanned. Which in reality is NONE of them. You know I haven’t even scanned my wedding photos!

Anyway apart from packing up photo albums, I packed up my entire genealogy intray – which was meant to be gradually making its way down bit-by-bit (see Confessions of a Genealogist), but I’ve been working on other things. So other than the odd document or funeral notice etc. being added to the pile – nothing has happened to it. In that intray I have a bunch of certificates that I ordered but haven’t yet scanned, or even entered into my tree (yes, I know … I’m slack!!). There’s also a bunch of newspaper notices, wedding and funeral programs, invitations and so on. All stuff I like to keep as ephemera, and all valuable records for my tree – but not if they’re turned to ash, so they made it into the pile of stuff I moved from my house.

One other thing I packed was my book (yes, I have a book) with all my passwords in it. I probably shouldn’t, but I do. And while some sites I couldn’t care about not remembering the login, others I do. So I felt it important to take my little book of passwords with me.

The next thing I packed was all my insurance documents. I know some people are super organised and have them scanned, and probably stored online. Yes well, I’m not one of them. While I have done that was a heap of photos, I haven’t got to scanning my bills, and insurance documents. But I need to obviously.

But I’d hate to have to make a claim without even having my account or reference number. So I felt they were important, and that’s why they got packed too.

So all up, I ended up packing up quite a lot of stuff, while leaving behind even more.  But as you can see it made me realise that I really need to work on some of my own things. My photos, my documents, my bills to name a few. All of which are important, and maybe in some cases, more so than the photos of my great great grandparents or something similar.

While the immediate fire risk has passed, the summer heat usually lasts well into March, so I’m not feeling ‘safe’ yet. And probably won’t until I get my stuff dealt with. But it’ll take a while, so I think is going to be a take I have to set my mind to once I return from the cruise. But as the title of this post suggests, it really was a reality check.

the sun on Ash Wednesday, February 1983

the sun on Ash Wednesday, February 1983

my house at Gumeracha on Ash Wednesday, February 1983

the house I grew up in at Gumeracha on Ash Wednesday, February 1983

5 Responses to “A Reality Check”

  1. Sharon says:

    A very relevant reminder Alona. Yes, I need to do some additional scanning and backing up too (there are just not enough hours in the day). At the moment my back-up drive is sitting beside me so will take it to work tomorrow.
    A colleague’s house burnt down last week and they lost EVERYTHING except an outdoor setting and what they were wearing. It really made me realise how many things that I have that are irreplaceable (family memorabilia). My husband thought I was joking when i suggested we should have a cellar!

  2. Very glad nothing did happen, but always good to learn from a near or non disaster. I am in the same way, having worked on the ‘old’ stuff first. Now people are asking about my own photos and I too need to make a plan to get those scanned. As far as bills go, most of mine are now electronic, so I expect they will follow me anywhere, but I should review which important docs aren’t readily available. I’m in a big city, but there’s lots to think/worry about here too. Thanks for the wake up call.

  3. John Sparrow Sunshine Coast Qld says:

    Hi Alona. I’m a member of a Rural Fire Brigade here in Qld. Fortunately where I live, we are unlikely to get such fires. However I did get a taste of it when I was deployed to fires on Stradbroke Island where I was amazed at how the fire behaved. I still am unable to comprehend how fires behave in the southern states, and am not likely to until I have been through them

    All my best

  4. Mr Lone Tester says:

    That a good part of why I’m in the CFS hun. And I certainly don’t like leaving the house on those days, but it’s gotta be done …

  5. Pauleen says:

    Good on Mr Lone Tester and John! without these volunteers in our rural areas so many people would be “up the creek”! It sometimes help to have a bit of an OMG panic moment to stir us up. I’ve been “gunna” scan my insurance documents, especially since our insurer might blow away with us in a cyclone. the problem with digitising is that scanning decades of stuff takes ages. I’ve even thought of hiring a commercial copier for the purpose.

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