40% of Americans would save physical photos over digital devices in an emergency — would you?

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Despite the digital era in which we live, many people would rather reach for physical mementos over tech in an emergency situation. What would you save?

If you only had minutes — or seconds — to pick one thing to save from your home, what would it be? Imagine that all people and pets are safe and your phone and wallet are already in your pocket. You're scanning your home for that one thing you'd be most devastated to lose. Would it be a family heirloom? What about your laptop or external hard drive?

If you haven't thought about having a disaster prep plan, now's the perfect time. We surveyed 2,000 Americans to find out what essential and non-essential items they would reach for first if they ever had to evacuate. Read on to learn:

Documents over devices

We live in a digital age. So one might expect computers and hard drives to reign supreme on the list of things people would save first. However, according to our survey, the number one choice was "a folder of important documents" — trumping even basic survival needs like food and medicine.

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This makes sense given the fact that you may not have internet access during a disaster situation. So it's always a good idea to have hard copies of important documents handy. Plus, documents like birth certificates, passports, or social security cards aren't usually stored online. Keep all your important documents together in a place that's secure and easy to access.

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Photos over PCs: when phone storage isn't enough

Next we asked people what non-essential, personal item they would save. Once again, the preference of physical over digital prevailed.

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Forty percent of respondents chose photos, and only 14% said they would save a personal computer, laptop, or hard drive. Women had a slightly higher tendency than men to choose physical photos — 47% vs. 33%, respectively.

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Sentimental value trumps monetary value

Almost two-thirds of Americans would save family-related sentimental items like photo albums and heirlooms above personal possessions — even if these personal items might be more valuable from a monetary perspective.

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In addition to knowing which family-related items you'd want to save first, it's also important to have a family emergency plan in place. Here are some preparedness tips that everyone should consider:

  • Make a family emergency plan. Make sure there's a family plan to safely evacuate all people and pets living in your home. In case anyone gets separated, agree on a safe meeting place that's out of harm's way, and make sure your emergency kit is prepped and easy to access.

  • Take inventory. Create a detailed home inventory to make sure your belongings are accounted for in case anything gets damaged. Remember to include things like price, condition, brand, and model, and take plenty of pictures. The more thorough you are, the simpler the process will be should you need to file a claim. Keep a physical copy of your inventory as well as a digital copy so that you can access it in any situation.

  • Create an emergency kit. Every home emergency kit should include enough water and nonperishable food to last three days, a first-aid kit, flashlights, batteries, an emergency contact list, hard copies of important documents and a hand-crank radio.

  • Subscribe to alert services. Many communities offer texting and email alert systems as a way to warn people of local emergencies. Visit your local Office of Emergency Management website to sign up.

For more tips on how to prepare for and recover from a disaster, check out our surprisingly painless guide to disaster prep.

Make reliable insurance part of your preparedness plan

We hope you never have to deal with a disaster. But part of being prepared is hoping for the best while also being ready for the worst. Having reliable insurance does more than give you peace of mind — it can save you from financial hardship.

Comprehensive car insurance covers the stuff that's not a "collision." That just means anything that's not your run-of-the-mill fender bender or car crash. Like a tree falling on your car. Or hail. Your car catching on fire. Or being swept away by a tornado. If you live in an area that's particularly prone to natural disasters, consider comprehensive coverage as part of your disaster preparedness plan.

A regular homeowners policy is meant to guard your property from the crazy things you don't think about but can ... and do ... happen. It can help cover damage from:

  • Fires
  • Windstorm damage
  • Hail
  • Lightening
  • Falling objects, like a tree branch
  • Weight of ice, snow, or sleet

Not a homeowner? Renters insurance coverage protects you and your personal belongings if the worst happens. While you may only be renting your apartment or house, chances are you own most of the stuff in it. And while your landlord's insurance policy on the home typically covers the building structure itself, protecting your valuables comes down to you. Note that earthquakes and floods aren't typically covered by most homeowners or renters insurance policies. Be sure to read your policy documents for information about coverages if you're ever unsure.

If you're still on the hunt for insurance that's simple, transparent, and affordable, get a quote today to be prepared for whatever tomorrow throws at you.


Forbes | Consumer Action News | Tech Times | Consumer Technology Association*


This study consisted of two survey questions conducted using Google Surveys. The sample consisted of no less than 1,000 completed responses per question. Post-stratification weighting has been applied to ensure an accurate and reliable representation of the total population. The survey ran during July 2019.

Related links

The surprisingly painless guide to disaster prep
Find out what to do before wild weather hits and how to recover afterward.

Most Americans are unprepared for natural disasters, despite high-tech solutions
Survey: Americans aren't investing in weather preparation, including smart-home technology.

Are you living in a natural disaster zone?
A big part of disaster preparedness is knowing what types of emergencies to expect.

An Esurance policy means protection when you need it most.

or call 1-866-439-5633

Or call 1-866-439-5633.