Losing Everything

Have you ever thought “what if I lose everything”?

In the past I thought of it briefly perhaps and then moved on to something else. Lately though I have considered it much more.

In the past couple of years, two people I work with lost much of their possessions in house fires, and more recently a good friend lost absolutely everything to “The Beast”, the fire in, around, and through, Fort McMurray.

We hear often stated something like “we are all fine, everything else can be replaced”, and that is true… well mostly. The blessing that “we are all fine”, or some version of, is the most wonderful thing of course, and is what we always hope for. It is the “everything else can be replaced” which becomes, at times and in many ways, the sticky wicket.

The “everything else” is of quite a diverse variety. I approach it as three basic categories.

There is the “physical” stuff: clothing, furniture, kitchenware, tools, electronics, recreational equipment, personal effects and so on. Of course the recommendation is that we have all of these things documented so as to assist with replacement negotiations with the insurance folks. Here I must say that the need for having insurance goes without saying in my opinion.

Next comes the “emotional” stuff. This consists of items which may, or may not, have a tangible value, however they do have high emotional value, usually classified as “memories”. In this area I feel that each of us must deal with these “memories” in our own fashion, as there is no easy, or defined, approach to take in this situation.

ft-mcmurray-friendFinally comes the “digital”the-fire stuff. This is what we have on our computers, tablets, smartphones and so on. The occasion which brings this sharply to mind for me was the experiences my Fort McMurray friend. After the fire, all that was left of their house was an essentially an empty basement. Even most of the metal pipes and such were melted and gone. I thank my friend for allowing me to use these photos of their house after the fire to demonstrate my thinking.
It was the third aspect, the “digital” stuff that really got me going. You see, I have everything on my computer, and I mean everything. Finances, work related information, contact lists, organization minutes, and on and on. My life activities are pretty much all there. Then I have “physical” stuff, details of things around the house, when purchased, value, even some photos. Valuable for dealing with insurance folks. And, I also have “emotional” stuff, scans of family documents, several hundred thousand photos going back many years, videos and much more.

So… what happens to all of this “digital” stuff? Pretty much since computers appeared on the scene the term “backup” appeared. It is basically a mantra repeated for years. Backup on floppy disks, backup on hard drives, backup on memory sticks, and now, backup in the cloud. Well, in a situation such as a devastating fire the recommendation has always been, have your backup offsite, put those floppy disks, hard drives or memory sticks in a safety deposit box, a friend’s house, somewhere offsite. I once knew a computer professional who kept backups in his car trunk, so they were always with him.

Now, we have the “cloud”. It is a backup, it is offsite. Should your computer equipment be destroyed, you can still access whatever you have placed in the cloud. Some refuse to consider this choice, feeling that it is insecure and that their identity will be stolen, while others totally embrace the concept. Most of us are somewhere in between.

In my case, I make extensive use of the “cloud”, however I don’t put all my eggs in one basket, but rather utilize five of the main cloud storage packages. I also maintain onsite backups for everything, just in case. My reasoning for utilizing the “cloud” was reinforced upon learning what my Fort McMurray friend had to go through to recover their paperwork lives, financial and other. Personally, I scan all our documents, which will make their replacement less stressful. There is also the side effect that all is laid out in an organized fashion when, at some point, it will be needed by our estate executor.

So, what should you do? That, my friends, is entirely up to you. My advice is to think about losing everything, consider how you would be affected, what do you have in place now, or what could you put in place to help mitigate the situation should it occur.

I am doing what I believe will work best for us. All I suggest is that you do the same.

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