For the last year or so I have been urging folks to protect their genealogy data. I grew up in the land of tornadoes. Now I live in the land of hurricanes. Our genealogy work is priceless. Our old pictures are irreplaceable. We have to be proactive. I note that genealogy organizations are now getting on this bandwagon. I rather think it has to do with the flooding that threatened the national archives and not my regular reminders [some have said harping]. Whatever caused it, I'm for it.
BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP
When something threatens you don't have time to backup your data. You have to do that regularly. I suggest you back up to something other than the hard drive in your computer as a general rule for a number of reasons. The computer may fail but probably not the computer and the external backup at the same time.
SHARE, SHARE, SHARE
One of the smartest things you can do is regularly send a copy of your backup to someone in another city, hopefully in another region of the country. Better yet, send the backup to two or three people. Even if your computer AND external backup go there's that backup you sent to cousin Meg safe and sound. You can probably send the backup attached to an email. What could be simpler?
In times of disaster the backup should be something you can grab and shove in a spare space in your purse, pocket, suitcase, whatever. Unless you use a laptop you won't be grabbing your computer but you can grab the backup.
Genealogy data from your genealogy software probably won't take up that much space. I like jump drives because you can use the data almost anywhere. They are small and easy to carry. You can also burn your data to a CD, which takes longer. CDs are more fragile too. However, CDs are cheaper. Periodically burn some and share with the family. Why not DVDs? I am of the personal opinion that DVDs technology as we use it in our computers now will not be with us all that long. It is an evolving technology. Also, the LDS tests did not indicate they were good for long term storage.
Now, what about all those pictures of your ancestors? I confess, on my first evacuation I carried two storage containers of pictures. The smart thing to do is scan the pictures to your computer, make backups and share -- just like with your data. We tend to put this off and I am guilty of that too. But you have to do all that scanning now if you want to be safe later.
The problem is your picture files won't fit on that jump drive or CD. You are going to need an external hard drive. I have some of the new ones which are about 3" x 5" and hold 60, 80 or 120 gig. They fit in my purse, some of my pockets and the safe deposit box as well as the glove compartment, under the front seat of the car, just about anywhere. Prices on these have come way down but you probably won't be giving one to cousin Meg so you'll still have to burn some CDs for her.
On to the paper documents you have collected -- birth, death and marriage records, wills, deeds, etc. You do have a scanned copy of each and every one, right? And they are saved on the same storage device as the pictures, right? If not, get moving and get it done. And don't forget to share.
You probably also have a bunch of CDs with assorted data on them that you have purchased from various sources. Make a list and keep a copy on your storage device. I own one of the medium size "fireproof" and "waterproof" safes you buy at office supply stores and even Wal-Mart. I store all my data CDs in those, including software program CDs. If you don't have one put the CDs in plastic which you have sealed as well as possible. If you are leaving them behind no matter how they are stored try to put them up high if flooding is even a remote possibility. Be advised the "waterproof" safes are extremely heavy to lift.
Books - we know they are staying. Keep a list on that storage device. If you have time put them up high. If you are like me there are just too many of them. You might try to take the irreplaceable ones. Fortunately most books are replaceable.
Whatever you do, don't put it off. Have a plan and put it in action now. You never know when you will need it.