Recording memories for future generations
The Flip-Pal mobile scanner is my go-to gadget that I use often.

Using a Flip-Pal scanner in disaster preparedness & family history preservation

The biggest lesson I learned following several natural disasters in 2011 and 2012 is that Mother Nature is not selective. Natural disasters happen every where and no one is immune. How we prepare our homes against disasters will save us time and money in the recovery process, but only if we begin.

I have been writing about disaster preparedness and preservation for Couragent, makers of the Flip-Pal® mobile scanners since August.  It’s been my mistake that I posted much about it here on my website. That will change.

We have lots to share with you.

Before I owned one, I heard the rave reviews about these wonderful scanners from my cousin, who is the family genealogist on my Dad’s side, and members of the Association of Personal Historians. Since they are light weight, portable, and battery operated you can develop a scan-where-you-work program. You can take it anywhere and are only limited by your imagination.

Personal historians love them, because it eliminates the risk of taking photos and documents from a client’s home to scan. There are just too many incidents of clients who loaned images for book projects only to have the client pass away suddenly and the family demanding the photos be returned instantly. Also, what if something happens to you and your property when their photos are in your possession. Eliminate the risk. Scan where you are.

Flip-Pal® mobile scanners allow you to duplicate jpeg images at 300 and 600 dpi (dots per inch), which is what the average household or office uses. With a simple photo editing program, such as Photoshop Elements you could convert these to pdf files if needed.

They are a must-have tool in your toolbox of electronics, just like a flathead screwdriver or your hot glue gun. Once you embrace its capabilities you’ll keep finding ways to use it. You’ll loan it to friends and family and then be slightly annoyed when they don’t return it promptly. You’ll give it as a gift.  You’ll wish you had a second one, just like the other flathead screw driver that keeps showing up in different drawers in your home.

Flip-it, I say. Copy stuff. Preserve stuff. Create.

When I love a product I am a brand ambassador forever. Just ask Nike.

How I got involved

After Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast of the United States on Oct. 30, 2012, I became involved in a photo recovery project in the town of Union Beach, New Jersey. I owned my first home there, a tiny convert summer bungalow with a big yard, and brought two of my three babies home to that house. Union Beach is where my story of motherhood began. I have fond memories of living there.  Sandy nearly wiped the town off the map. It will change forever.

Days after the hurricane, I met a woman who was finding people’s private photos that had been ripped from their homes by the 100 mile per hour winds and managed to roll their way around town as the flood waters receded. These photos belong to someone, she thought. They are their memories, their history. She started a Facebook group page and sought to relocate photos with owners. That was nearly a year and a half ago and she is still devoting much of her life to this project. She’s a personal historian’s rock star. I helped her for a few months and am looking forward to going back once this winter weather breaks.

The project, which is run by a group of volunteer residents – neighbors helping neighbors – has a simple, but time-consuming routine: Dry photos, scan, carefully clean photos, dry, scan again, rehouse, post on social media, network to reunite. Each group of photos may take a week to properly clean and scan. The people who have reunited with their photos are extremely grateful.

Where do Flip-Pals come in?

I contacted Couragent and asked if the company could lend us a scanner or two for this project. I begged them really. What I wasn’t prepared for was an entire company wrapping its arms around this project and saying, “We’re here to help. If we don’t know the answer to your questions, we’ll find someone who does.”  The company supported us physically, financially and emotionally to get off the ground.

The strength and versatility of this product allowed us to complete an amazing amount of work within a few months. Nearly 30,000 photos have been rescued, including some duplicates.

The massive devastation left in the wake of this hurricane opened my eyes to how families need to create their own crisis management plan in the event of a natural disaster. (Residents on the East Coast of the United States had a week to prepare for this storm.) I needed to learn more about heritage preservation and protecting personal documents and artifacts. I want to get the word out on a retail level, the way museums and libraries preserve their archives.

We all have a history. The stuff in our households that helps document our legacy is what we need to protect against natural disasters.

Flip-it Forward

Couragent recognized the lessons learned from Sandy, too. It tracked similar needs with other disasters around the country.  The company has since developed an outreach program on personal preservation. It’s website has free advice and webinars on preservation, family history, grand parents, and scrapbooking. If you sign up for updates, you’ll get the latest tips emailed on how you can begin preserving your family’s history and protect it against disasters. Follow the company on either Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.

I love when the websites of products I use also become sources of information. Of course, Couragent wants you to buy its product, but the company also wants you to actually use its Flip-Pal scanner, enjoy it, and share it with others. It wants to help you generate ideas on how else to use mobile scanning in your home. Be inspired to Flip.

I’m excited to be a part of the company’s 52 Suggestions program for preservation projects you can tackle every week this year. As I tackle the list, I’m getting more organized!

Because I trust my Flip-Pal scanner, it has become my go-to, my assistant, my favorite.  If the worst case scenario ever happened to my home, I know I’ve already preserved much of my family history and personal documents, using my Flip-Pal. That gives me a peace as I watch another snow storm fall and temperatures drop, again, this winter.



WEEK 1: Walk, Don’t run

WEEK 2: Create a preservation tool kit

WEEK 3: Assessing your collection

WEEK 4: Making space for your collection

WEEK 5: Estate Planning – The case for photo scanning in estate planning