All over New South Wales and parts of Queensland, people have been fleeing homes in a hurry in the last few days as floodwaters rise around them.
But one of Australia’s largest insurers has said when you’re scrambling to leave, there’s one thing you shouldn’t be spending valuable time trying to save.
It’s precisely not the time to be poking around the back of the wardrobe in the spare room to find Grandma’s beloved old photo albums. Lives are more important – so if you haven’t got them handy, forget it, according to Allianz.
However, the insurance giant reckons it might have at least a partial solution to the problem of saving the irreplaceable but generally uninsurable.
Down the track, these treasured snaps are often the item people who have seen their home destroyed regret most not saving.
“It’s just something that people don’t consider when they’re planning for an emergency event,” Allianz Australia’s chief technical officer James Fitzpatrick said.
“The loss of these items can have an impact of people’s mental health and long-term impact in terms of mental wellbeing.”
A survey conducted by Australia’s fourth largest insurer found 74 per cent of people would not be able to retrieve their most precious items if they need to evacuate quickly. Almost 60 per cent had no plan at all to save sentimental items yet 95 per cent said they are irreplaceable.
Of those who have gone through a natural disaster and have had to leave their homes in a rush, over half said they weren’t prepared and a quarter said losing sentimental items had affected their mental health.
Photos, children’s artworks and old letters were the most irreplaceable items. Jewellery and heirlooms and family recipes were also missed.
“It’s something anecdotally customers have always told us that when they’re going through a devastating event, it’s the loss of sentimental items they ultimately regret the most,” Mr Fitzpatrick said.
“Often they may have them hidden away in a cupboard or under a bed and in an emergency they are clearly irretrievable.”
But now the insurer reckons it’s come up with a new way of preserving old memories. It’s called Allianz Memory Safe.
“Memory Safe is a simple and intuitive interface that allows people to create a digital archive of memories that people can share with friends and families and store for future generations,” he said.
“They can upload items and photos that represent their history, travel, loved ones or moments in life they want to preserve.”
Memory Safe is a reskinned version of the already established website Memories.com.au, a kind of Facebook type site for posterity. The idea is that you can create a timeline of old photos and the like. But you can also scan in important documents like share certificates, passports and home documents and keep them safe in case the originals disappear into a deluge.
Mr Fitzpatrick said Allianz would give a free lifetime membership of Memory Safe to the first 5000 new and existing customers who applied, which equals around $1 million of investment given a lifetime membership of Memories is $199. However, Allianz has said the actual figure it has paid Memories is confidential – and is thought to be somewhat lower.
Customers who come in after that date will have to pay a monthly fee to keep their Memory Safe page live or the $199 lifetime membership.
Mr Fitzpatrick acknowledged Memory Safe had its limitations. Scanning in a photo is one thing, but a snap of a treasured piece of jewellery is not the real thing.
“With items like jewellery you can take a 3D image which means with today’s technology it could be reproduced,” he said.
The extraordinary floods over the last week means there are quite a few people who are having to make some last-minute decisions about what items to save or not.
Unlike those people in bushfire zones who may have an emergency kit packed and by the door ready to go, the lack of floods over the last few years may mean some are caught short.
When the weather is fine and disaster seems far off is the time to go searching for old war medals or love letters, said Mr Fitzpatrick. Probably not in the midst of a “one-in-100-year” rain event.
“We’re encouraging people to take some time out walk around home and see what items they may want to store for the future.”