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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What to do when water starts coming in

I live in the Northeast and before the last several weeks I have only had water in my house once in twenty years. We had a very wet summer, and when Hurricane Irene started up the coast, there was already saturated ground to flood. We got hit hard by Irene. In preparation for the storm I shut down all of my computers, unplugged all of my printers and peripherals, and thought I was prepared. What I prepared for, in part, was wind and tree damage, loss of power or surges, but not water.

I was in my studio on Sunday morning, watching TV on an old set, tracking the weather on the Weather Channel. I turned around and saw water, about half covering my area rug, and advancing fast. I immediately thought to get the battery backup boxes off the floor, and started to think what to do. I had an old shop vac that my father in law had bought. It has a 3" hose and is the width of a trash can. I searched for the surge protected outlet strip I bought several years back. Although many of the outlets in the basement are GFCI protected, I did not take my chances. Years ago I bought this outlet strip which has its own GFCI breaker in it. My outlets are up high - it is a raised ranch with a 4' poured concrete wall in the basement. I would not have gone in to shop vac the water if I did not have a GFCI connection. SAFETY FIRST!

The shop vac worked great. I filled it up and emptied it so many times over the next three hours, but kept the water contained in two rooms, one being my studio, the other the laundry. The carpet was trashed, and I pulled that out. I found bits and pieces of carpet, and water in spots where I did not think it could seep. I dried it all out, ran my dehumidfiers, and washed down the floor with a bleach solution. I thought about a new rug, but did not go out and get one. Good thing. Started to hook my computers back up, and just in case I made small wooden trays for the battery back ups to keep them elevated off the floor. Almost lost a large box of fine art paper, but got it before the paper got wet.

Over the next several days it was recovery. We fared pretty well, as other places had over 4 feet of water, and no power. It kept raining, but no water seeped in, so we felt it was a once in 20 year thing. I worked late into the night on my DC SPCA Calendar Wednesday to get the CD of pages to the printer. We felt we had gotten past it.

Until Lee. My wife woke me up Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. with the words "we have water, again." The uncarpeted floor had little resistance to the incoming water. Got the battery back ups out of there. Hooked up the GFCI power strip. Got the shop vac. Three and half hours later, we saw the water going down. We had not put everything back, so there was a little less to get off the floor. We knew where to look. No further damage, and the clean up begins again.

So why the story, other than to go on about our water woes. First, have a plan. Run your back ups. Consider elevating any electric item that can be affected. I moved my computers to the desktop years ago as I am in them more often, there is less dust than on the floor, and the cables reach better to the desktop. I am grateful I did this. Second, unplug. Shut down computers when there is a threat of weather, as a crash can affect your hard drives and computers. Have back ups off site. If I had everything in my basement, and got 4 feet of water, I would have lost everything. And if you rely on a sump pump, consider a generator, as if the electric goes out, a sump pump will not help.

When I was in New Orleans, LA in November, 2008 doing post Katrina rehabilitation work, we went to the Lower Ninth Ward. There, a husband and wife photography team, Keith Calhoon and Chandra McCormick, had rehabilitated their double shotgun as a gallery. One side had the current work, the other the work they rescued from Katrina. Prints had the emulsion washed off or damaged, mats and frames were wavy and water stained. We learned they were shooting film in 2005. A freezer full of shot but unprocessed film gave some hope that the water damage could be minimized so that some images could be rescued. People lost all of the images of their lives, their families, their events in Katrina.

Here is one of the images rescued.

Here is more on them:

I want to make it clear, Irene and Lee combined had nothing on Katrina. But when you think that it cannot happen to you, it can. It is so vey important to back up and have a plan. I work on my Digital Asset Management (DAM). Hardware and software have to be included in any plan. And you have to do it regularly and consistently.

Be back soon. Got to clean up!



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