Aussies lack treasured item disaster plan

Callum Godde
(Australian Associated Press)


As the Black Summer bushfires bore down on her Batemans Bay home, Margaret Rowe remembers the panic setting in as she packed up her most treasured belongings.

The 79-year-old quickly realised there were no digital copies of her lace embroidery, family photos and key documents in the event of future disasters, such as the once-in-a-generation floods currently plaguing NSW.

“Insurance covers the bricks and mortar and the material things but these sort of things, they’re irreplaceable,” she says in a new Allianz commercial released on Tuesday.

That’s why the insurance giant has launched the Memory Safe program, allowing up to 5000 customers to digitally catalogue their most-sentimental belongings.

Lavinia Rowe, 20, has been helping her grandmother use the platform to upload images of the irreplaceable items, ensuring they can be enjoyed by her descendants.

“All those memories could be lost, which is very frightening,” the Wollongong-based university student said.

“They’re so important that I have them and my kids hopefully will appreciate it just as much.”

New research commissioned by Allianz would indicate Ms Rowe’s crisis-induced epiphany is not uncommon.

In a survey of more than 1000 Australians last year, 72 per cent said they were not prepared for a disaster and 58 per cent did not have a plan to protect their most cherished items.

While 95 per cent of those surveyed considered sentimental belongings irreplaceable, almost three in four suggested they would be unable to reach their most precious items if they needed to evacuate quickly.

Old family photos (75 per cent), jewellery (47), heirlooms (45), secret family recipes (16), love letters (12) and children’s toys (11) are being kept in places that are hard to reach in emergencies, respondents reported.

Hiding places included a cupboard (49 per cent), buried in a shoebox (15) or in the stairs or attic (six).

Neuroscientist Sarah McKay said losing a sentimental item often evoked feelings of grief and disconnection from the memories associated with it.

“Our sentimental items are the embodiment of our memories, relationships and travels – they help to form our identity and our legacy,” Dr McKay said in a statement.


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