June 1, 2007 Digital photographers have a new way to safeguard assets in a residence or business. State-of-the-art digital recording apparatus is used to create inventory, which is kept on several protected servers, to be released should a natural disaster or accident occur, or at the ownerýs request.
- List of major natural disasters in the United States
- Application software
- Catastrophe modeling
More than 50 percent of Americans live near a coast or fault-line that puts them at risk for hurricanes or earthquakes. Many more live in areas where tsunamis, tornadoes, wildfires, and floods happen. Victims of these events often have to piece together their homes and lives.
Dan Margolis, from Coral Springs, Florida, witnessed the fury of Hurricane Wilma and his house took a beating. "We began to notice leaks coming in from various parts of the ceilings," Margolis says. It's that kind of damage Dan's insurance won't pay for. The problem was he didn't have pictures of his house before and after the storm hit. "And when we submitted our claim, they're like, 'Well, we need to see proof," Margolis says.
A professional imageographer went to Dan's home to photograph and document the home, in case it happens again. Zachary Goldberg, the Chief Technology Officer for Arkiva, says, "One of the things that you definitely want to do is safeguard all the assets in your home." Using digital recording equipment, important documents like passports and birth certificates can be scanned and stored. Even personal photographs can be saved. Each item is given a date stamp, so you can send it directly to your insurance adjustor. The service costs $299 for a home visit and about $8 a month to maintain. That includes 250 photos, up to 200 documents, and up to 2,000 of your own pictures.
Dan has some valuables only he considers important, but still wants to make sure they're covered. He treasures his Ohio State football jersey. Although, "First time I wore it to a football game, we lost to Northwestern," Margolis says. Since CD ROMs, cameras and hard drives can fail or get lost in a disaster, Arkiva posts the images on a secure website. Only the customer can view the contents, which are stored in Florida, Virginia and Texas. "So, you really have three back-ups of your data. If for any reason, the data center in Dallas, Texas should fail, we actually have another server that would be up and running in about less than a minute," Goldberg explains.
It all sounds like common sense and we all know we should do it, but how many of us have actually taken the time to do it? If you want to document your valuables yourself, make sure you back up your hard drive and give a CD ROM copy to a friend or family member who lives in another state. "That piece of mind. I don't know how you put a price on that. You can't," Margolis says.
BACKGROUND: Arkiva offers anyone an affordable digital storage solution for precious belongings, from one-of-a-kind keepsakes and records, to house plans and material possessions. Designed to keep track of the valuables you've insured, the inventory is housed on multiple protected secure serves and is untouchable should a natural disaster, theft, or accident occur, destroying important documents, photographs, or other memorabilia. Owners would have secure access to those images through a computer.
HOW IT WORKS: A certified imageographer with professional digital recording equipment travels to the customer's residence or business to perform the entire inventory. Irreplaceable documents, priceless family photos, special items, outdoor structures, and other insurable assets are scanned and photographed, then immediately uploaded to an online account. To verify authenticity, all documents are time-stamped. Once an account is created, only the customer can view, manage and edit its contents.
WHY IT'S NEEDED: According to the US Census Bureau, over 50% of the US population lives near a coastline or faultline that is subject to hurricane or earthquake activity. There are also risks associated with natural disasters like wildfires, mudslides, tornadoes and floods. In 2005, hurricanes alone caused over $100 billion in property damage, the costliest season on record since 1928. Such naturally occurring events, coupled with more common catastrophes like fires and thefts, reinforce the need to protect valuables before it is too late.
CANDID CAMERA: The core component of a digital scanner is a CCD array -- a collection of tiny light-sensitive diodes that convert light into electrons (electrical charge). The brighter the light that hits any given diode, the greater the electrical charge that will accumulate at that sight. A document is placed on a glass plate and the cover is closed. Then a lamp illuminates the document, and the CCD array, which is mounted on the scan head along with mirrors, lens and filter to gather and focus the reflected light. The scan head moves across the document, usually in a single pass. The end result is a full-color image, which is then transferred to a computer via interface software called a driver.
IEEE-USA contributed to the information contained in the video portion of this report.