Photo Recovery and Reuniting Efforts in Union Beach, New Jersey
Recently Flip-Pal Cares sprang into action in Union Beach, NJ to help recover family photos that had washed up on the beaches after Hurricane Sandy. Here is a report of last weekend’s efforts from Gordon Nuttall, CEO of Couragent, Inc., makers of the Flip-Pal mobile scanner:
Two different events were held in the Union Beach area this past weekend where people could either volunteer to scan and organize photos that had been recovered from local beaches or they could come in and claim their found photos. Once the photos had been cleaned and prepped, we had several groups of volunteers each day that scanned images with Flip-Pal mobile scanners.
Here is a video of me sorting through photos and getting them ready for the scanning process:
Why Photos Matter In the Midst of Disaster
It might seem odd that while surrounded by disaster relief services, which were helping to restore and rebuild residences and provide vital life services, that there would be a focus on recovering lost family photos. Mary Danielsen, one of the organizers of Restoring Union Beach Memories, summed it up this way:
“The residents of Union Beach, New Jersey are still in shock one month after Hurricane Sandy devastated their little bay-shore town. They want their normal life back, but they’ve been forced to accept the reality that their entire life is about to change. The Union Beach photo recovery project may not seem like a priority when the health, safety and infrastructure of an entire community have been decimated. However, when residents take a breath and look around at what remains of their homes and cars, the first thing they say is 'I wish I had my photos.'
As I have said before, our photos are our memory keepers. They act as placeholders in time and enrich our family histories with stories to be passed down to the next generation. Without them, details are easy to forget.”
Once scanned, the photos were bagged and organized in bins so that people could claim them. In addition, we wanted to make sure that people knew about the free photo restoration services being provided by various volunteers—both locally and on social media sites such as Facebook.
We discovered that organization is very important during the entire process—from discovering the photos, to cleaning and scanning them and then making sure that both the digital images and the actual photos could be easily found. You can’t imagine the joy people express when they get their photos back.
On Saturday the group scanned nearly 1,150 photos and processed many more which were too deteriorated to scan. On Sunday we scanned 1,240 photos and cleaned another 500 that are now waiting to be scanned.
Scout’s Honor: Be Prepared
We had many different volunteers assisting us with the recovery of these photos and reuniting them with families. We were very grateful for their hard work, especially the Boy Scouts who helped clean and scan photos. With the motto “Be Prepared” in mind, I could not help but think of a few ways that all of us can be prepared for any type of disaster that could cause family photos and other important items to disappear in an instant.
- Scan Your Photos NOW. Many of the residents who thought their possessions—including photos and documents—would be safe, were surprised at what was washed away. Put together a plan to scan and digitize all your precious photos and other documents (family history as well as legal documents) and get started on securing these items right away.
- Get Organized. Whether you are preparing to secure your photos now, or working to recover them after a disaster, make sure you have a method of storing your digital files. This could be using folders or creating a special file naming convention. Your goal should be to quickly find the item you need.
- Perform Multiple Backups. It makes no sense to store your files on a USB flash drive if you then store it next to your computer or with other items that could be lost or damaged in a disaster. Secure your backup files in another location, such as a fire-proof safe, a safety deposit box or with another family member.
- Take Advantage of the Cloud. An even easier method of storing your digitized files is to use cloud storage programs such as Dropbox or SugarSync. You’ll always have access to them as long as you have a computer or a mobile device and an Internet connection.
Mary Danielsen and Jeanette Van Houten plan to continue their photo recovery and restoration efforts over the next few months. They have access to Flip-Pal mobile scanners and other supplies to make sure that these photos are digitized as soon as possible and then organized so that they can be reunited with their owners.
Don’t forget that if you are in the area, you can volunteer your services. Visit the Union Beach Photos and Misplaced Items group on Facebook and ask about the next recovery event. Even if you do not live in the Union Beach are, you can still show your support by donating funds to help purchase supplies for Restoring Union Beach Memories via gofundme at http://www.gofundme.com/1k3w9c.