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Photo Fire Drills: Are You Prepared to Evacuate Your Photos?

Updated: Aug 14, 2018

JUL 30 2016 (EDIT)

Raise your hand if you’ve ever done a Photo Fire Drill. I don’t think most of us have even given it any thought, and I’m talking about myself, too. It has always been one of those “I need to do that sometime” tasks. Well, a few summers ago I was put on the spot, and “sometime” was here!



We live in Central Washington State, and if you keep up with the news, you know we’ve had our share of wild fires…big wildfires that level entire forests, wildlands, and towns. It was June 2015, early in the season, and as I was driving home, I noticed smoke on one of the hills surrounding the Wenatchee Valley. I figured the fire fighters were on it, and it would be out in no time. Then the winds kicked up, and it started spreading very quickly.


Evacuations were happening by the minute, and when it looked like we might be in the path of it, I decided it was time to gather all things photo-related as well as important documents.  Well, it was certainly an eye-opener!


You see, I had been a Creative Memories Consultant since 1990, and you know what that means! Yep, I had dozens of 4-inch thick scrapbooks, boxes of loose photos and memorabilia, photos on walls, negatives, slides, and family video tapes. Then there were computers, EHD’s, and CD’s. I think you get the picture (no pun intended).


It took me over an hour to gather everything into one place! I called my husband at work and told him he really needed to come home, just in case. He would be so proud of my efficiency! Everything was packed and ready to go into the truck. I guess you can imagine how devastated I was when he announced, “You really need to do something about all those pictures.” My defensive reaction was, “WHAT!!!! This is over forty-five years of our family’s memories! We are not leaving one thing behind!”





Once the danger had passed and I came to my senses, I realized that he was right. Not only did it take me over an hour to gather everything, but later I discovered I had even missed some very important things. It would have been a struggle to fit it all in our one small truck and one car. And, oh yeah, we needed room for the drivers and the cat! I know a couple of people who lost their homes in that same fire, and they literally had less than fifteen minutes notice to get out. Had I been in that situation, we would have lost it all.


I have made the commitment to scan all those albums, other loose photos, memorabilia, and important documents so I can back them up to my Forever account. It’s a huge job, and I’m still working diligently on it, but I’m making progress. I’m grateful that my experience that summer was only a fire drill and not the real thing.


The Five P’s of Immediate Evacuation


1. People and Pets — And other livestock too

2. Papers – Important documents and financial records

3. Prescriptions – Pills and eyeglasses

4. Pictures – Irreplaceable memories

5. Personal Computer – Information on hard drives and disks


Other Helpful Resources


Save Your Photos Resources Page

Ready.gov: Make a Plan

It’s Wildlife Season: Do You Know Where Your Photos Are?

How to Prepare and Backup Your Photos Before Natural Disaster Hits

We Have to Evacuate! How Do I Keep My Photos Safe?

Free Course: Working With Water Damaged Photos


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We also invite you to visit our sister blog The Photo Organizers for more tips and in-depth knowledge from some of the top photo organizing industry professionals. To find a photo organizer near you, visit the Association of Personal Photo Organizers.



Debra Benbow is the owner of Big River Photo Solutions, LLC of Wenatchee, WA.

Her passion for photos began as a young child when she would spend hours looking through her family’s boxes of photos.


As a Creative Memories Consultant for over 25 years, she enjoyed helping people tell their stories and protect their photos. She started Big River Photo Solutions in 2013 and is a Certified Photo Organizer and member of the Association of Personal Photo Organizers (APPO). Debra specializes in scanning and photo organization.


She lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her husband of forty-five years, is a Master Gardener, photographer, and mom to three grown children, and has five adorable grandchildren.





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