Thursday, May 1, 2008

Florida fires and San Diego fires


By Dean Dey

I recently read David Gewirtz' "Scorched earth" article and I can understand his feeling a little off, given the fires. My elderly parents in rural San Diego lost their home and belongings in the Harris Fire in October. They lost everything and still haven't recovered from the shock. I doubt they will. They have basically become nomads, with almost no belongings.

There is a lesson that should be passed on. Among my parents' losses were boxes of family photos dating back to at least 1900. Like many people, they were all randomly stored on various boxes, all of which burned at over an estimated 2,000 degrees.

However, there was a backup. My son and I flew to San Diego three years ago with our laptops. We bought a scanner there, and spent three days scanning every picture we could find, and got a verbal description of each picture from my parents. My son in Oregon and I in Delaware now have a copy and description of all the lost photos.

As I have spoken of this to colleagues here at the University, all very family oriented, not one of them has ever done this. One person had the idea to do something like this, but had not followed through.

Few people have access to "nuke-proof" bunkers for their computers. But they should back-up their computer--stored photos. That is our standing instruction to users. But people should really pay attention to the paper (and tin-type) photos stored in albums and shoeboxes.

I am glad things worked out for David.

Dean Dey is a computer and technology specialist at the University of Delaware, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, in Georgetown Delaware, and is retiring June 30. He lives in Lewes, Delaware. His son, Ryan, is a cartographer for Geodatascape in Hillsboro, Oregon.