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RF Generation Message Board | Collecting | Collection Connection | The House is Burning Scenario - Hard-Earned Lessons from a Horrible Night 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: The House is Burning Scenario - Hard-Earned Lessons from a Horrible Night  (Read 2487 times)
LuoJieRui
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« on: August 21, 2020, 05:54:34 AM »

Hey all,

Long time member here, but have almost exclusively lurked rather than posted. I am writing this post as kind of a PSA and kind of general advice post based on some lessons I learned while attempting to quickly pack up a collection in preparation for an evacuation due to a wildfire. Mainly I want to write it because I remember another member had their own house burn down, plus quite a few posts I have read on various sites over the years about video game collections getting destroyed in natural disasters. It"s a common problem and I hope what I learned tonight can help others avoid similar disasters in the future. This will be a long post so feel free to cut to the TL;DR and just read the first sentence of each numbered paragraph if you want to skip the back story and just get to the advice.

First, some backstory. Basically I live in Northern California, in a small apartment in a heavily urbanized area with my wife. The collection is mostly in my parents' house in an outer suburbsabout 30 miles away. The fire is currently a few miles from my parents' house. I don't really want to get into my personal life but basically, my wife and I are living cheap to try and save up for a house, space is an issue, and my parents have a big enough house that I can leave my old bedroom full of the bulk of my collection without an issue. Not sure if it's in the news but there have been a lot of fires around here lately. Long story short, it has been raining a lot less around here since 2013-ish, vegetation is really dry and for the last three or four years, it seems like there has been at least one major wildfire somewhere within 200 miles of me. My main point for bringing this up is, this is the sort of thing I should have been planning for/the kind of news I should have been paying attention to in hindsight. The nearest major fire to where the collection was before this was 70 miles away. Basically I had an attitude of invincibility that immediately went away when I got the gut punch call from my parents that were told to evacuate. So first piece of advice here, pay attention to this kind of news story.

Essentially I get the call and immediately drive to my parents' place ASAP with whatever bags I had to had. I had an empty CD wallet that could hole 400 discs, severally other small CD wallets that could in combination hold about 100 discs, and like a dozen or so plastic tubs and paper and reusable shopping bags. If you view my collection, you can see I have around 3,700 games at time of writing, of which 3k or so were at my parents' place. In sum, I didn't know how much time I had and not enough capcity to take all of it. The ensuing few hours were a hectic mess and because of an incredibly fortunate wind shift, I basically had four hours to pack, and got about half the collection to fit in my sedan after putting away other important belongings.

TL;DR (Advice):
1. Have a plan and be aware you are not invincible. The possibility of this happening to anyone is very real and with as many games as some collectors here have, the consequences of losing it all in a fire are very real. I keep track of my collection's value on gamevaluenow and am very aware that I cannot afford to replace it at today's prices, at least not in a reasonable timeframe. Be aware of news stories like droughts or unusually dry and hot weather. If a fire happened within 100 miles of you any time in recent memory, the threat is more real than you could know.

2. Consider keeping games out of their cases/boxes. As game collectors, I think everyone here loves the feeling of physical media
 Opening the case/box, reading the manual, etc. But if you're in a legitimate crisis situation, it is super helpful if you make your collection more portable. A 400-disc holder takes up six inches of horizontal shelf space. The same number of games in DVD cases take up 20 ft of horizontal shelf space. If you kept your disc based and portable games in cases, it's way easier to throw them  quickly in a duffel bag or in the back of your car if you have only 15 minutes or less. For those of you with larger storage areas, using a few extra feet of shelf storage to store discs separately is probably worth it.

3. For people with games worth a significant amount of money/are irreplaceable for whatever reason, consider a fire safe. Personally my rarest games are Bonk 3 on the TurboDuo and Panzer Dragoon Saga. Nothing crazy expensive but like you better believe when this happened, they got thrown in a paper bag with everything else and quickly put in the back of the car to get potentially damaged in transit. If condition is super important or the he is to rare to be replaced even with insurance money, a fire safe is probably worth it.

4. Consider getting your collection insured. I, like an idiot, do not have any insurance any.collection at all. But you better believe I am going to look into it after this, provided it survives the night (again, more on that later). Video games are not like a car, even if some collections here are worth more than a car, they mostly sit on a shelf staticly as opposed to go down the highway or navigate city traffic. I.e. even if the insured amount is the same as a car, I am almost certain the premium will be lower especially if it is tacked onto a renter's insurance agreement or homeowner's insurance agreement. I have been collecting for ten years, and others here for much longer, and feeling like the product of so many years of effort is about to go up in smoke is one of the worst feelings imaginable. The collection being insured negates a lot of the downside of it burning and will probably give you more leverage for making better desicions of such a crisis happens.

5. Be aware that most of this stuff is replaceable and if it is too valuable to be replaced easily, it's maybe better to sell it now. It was actually really surprising but when it came time to pack this stuff under a time constraint, you become really aware, really quick that most of this really doesn't matter to you. For instance, I have a complete set of Odyssey 2 games and when I had to choose between bringing that and 50 or so Atari games that were probably worth a lot less, I grabbed the Atari stuff. Why? Because in the heat of the moment, I knew which I could live without. But I wasted a lot of time glancing over shelves and shelves of games trying to determine which ones were worth the most. As someone who has accumulated a lot of games, I may sound like a hypocrite but I became really surprised at just how much of the stuff occupying these shelves I was indifferent to in this situation. Remember a lot of these games sold tons of copies and aren't worth a whole lot. It's better to preserve this stuff if possible but in a real crisis, you have to pick and choose quickly and I found actual enjoyment playing was a lot easier to figure out in that situation than pure value. Plus remember there tons of other things of importance to grab in a burning house scenario and games relatively speaking, are not an essential item compared to passports, birth certificates, etc

6. Relatively speaking, hardware should be low on the priority list compared to software in this situation (imo). Unless you are extremely well prepared, consoles, controllers, cables are not easy to pack up in the best of times and in a crisis, almost impossible. I got extremely lucky with the wind change and had more time than most in this situation and basically realized most consoles are replaceable and very bulky to pack quickly. Software, especially discs and portable games can be packed very quickly (especially if pre-packed as I suggested earlier). In the end, I left behind the majority of my systems. The Gameboy, GBA, GBC, Famicom, Super Famicom, and NES if burned I will just replace with a Retron 5. The same space they would have taken could hold a lot of cartridges which pound for pound are a lot harder to replace.

7. Consider keeping the rare and personally valuable games separate from the rest of the collection. If you're like me, you probably had all of your games in alphabetical order for a given system on a shelf. In a crisis you can waste a while lot of time trying to pick the ones that matter to you. If you plan in advance and keep them in a separate area, if such a time comes, you know exactly where to go and can save a lot of time from desicion making.

End of TL;DR
Now to bring it all back to the present moment (it is 4 am in California). The house hasn't burned down yet and why I kept saying "if" the rest of the collection survived the night. Essentially the wind is mercifully still blowing away from the house at the moment. If I am extremely lucky, it will continue to blow that way until it can be contained. I cannot however always rely on luck and neither can all of you, so I hope all of you can use these tips to avoid the utter disaster I narrowly went through. I personally am planning on collecting more disc-only games and loose portable games because they are a lot more easy to throw in your trunk in a time-stressed situation. I also really became aware of just how much stuff I have accumulated and the utter despair that came with packing only a fraction of it made me question why I have somewhat. Like I enjoy playing games, but having to move this stuff quickly in a crisis situation was incredibly stressful and made the sheer mass of it all feel like a burden. I might also shift more to digital copies for newer games again for the sake of portability in a crisis. But idk, let me know if any of you find this useful. Hope the best for all of you.
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slackur
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« Reply #1 on: August 21, 2020, 09:21:12 AM »

Thanks for sharing, and we hope and pray for safety and that the fires are contained quickly.

Good info to keep in mind, we all live in an area with some type of potential disaster, and preparing accordingly can save a lot of regret later.

Take care and keep us updated!
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Keelah se'lai
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« Reply #2 on: August 21, 2020, 11:28:47 AM »

Great tips, and some good rules of thumb for collecting anyway. And yes, please keep us updated as to your situation. Also: don't be a stranger! We definitely need more discussion around here, and on the Discord server Cheesy
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LuoJieRui
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« Reply #3 on: August 21, 2020, 12:27:37 PM »

Thanks for the kind words. The wind has continued to blow in the same direction from last night (i.e. away from the house). Unfortunately the fire is only 10% contained and the town's in the direction of where the wind is blowing have been evacuated. I am back in the city and despite being pretty far away, the air is really thick with smoke here. Trying to decide what I will do today. Will keep you guys updated if you want but so far luck has held out.
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LuoJieRui
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« Reply #4 on: August 21, 2020, 07:12:20 PM »

Hey all,

Sorry for the double post but some updates and more advice for anyone who happens to read this now or in the future.

Good news is the wind has continued in the same direction as this morning meaning the fire is moving away from the house still. I spent the day working from home (in the city apartment) but now weighing my options as to whether or not I want to go out and buy two more 400-capacity disc wallets and try to salvage at least the disc-based stuff I initially left behind. I hardly slept last night but unpacked almost everything I brought last night. Around 200,000 people have been evacuated already according to the news. The bad news is though that more dry lightning is in the forecast (lightning strikes caused the original fires in this area) which likely means more fires, aka even if the wind continues its current direction things might not be safe past the storms this weekend.

Regardless the main point of this point is to update on the insurance thing which I imagine a lot of you will find useful to know. According to the insurance company, the games themselves are covered under the homeowners' insurance policy as is (i.e. even though not previously declared) with some caveats. First there is a general amount they have set aside in event of fire to cover the contents of the house lost in a fire. The value of your other stuff you list as destroyed + the value ofyour games that you list as destroyed cannot exceed that. You must also have A) general photographic proof of the collection's existence, B) specific photos of any particular valuable items as proof of ownership, and C) up to date information of the fair market value of every item in the collection you are claiming. It might be a long, drawn-out process but if in the worst case imaginable this happens to you, you might be ok. I have a lot of photos of my collection and use gamevaluenow's collection tracker to keep track of the collection's value. So I will likely be ok if what the agent says is true. But just as a warning for you guys, it might be good to use some similar process/service if you do not already. The insurance provider for this policy is State Farm if anyone finds that info helpful (maybe other companies have different policies?). Anyway, hope this additional info is helpful.
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Zagnorch
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« Reply #5 on: August 22, 2020, 04:48:50 PM »

As a Silicon Valley resident who's been somewhat affected by the nearby fires in the east hills and Henry Coe state park, I'm pretty much on board with your advice. I must say that last dry lightning storm was downright freaky, and I absolutely do NOT relish another one coming through. And lemme tell ya, there are few sights more ominous than the sun looking all pink-orange when filtered through a smoke cloud.




I would also like to add that N95 particle masks are advised for better coping with the smoke in the air. They're also one of the most highly recommended masks to help limit the spread of the covid-19 plague.



Stay safe out there, everybody...


- Z
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(N64)*10^2=1337 aw350m320r2
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« Reply #6 on: August 26, 2020, 08:49:43 AM »

You must also have A) general photographic proof of the collection's existence, B) specific photos of any particular valuable items as proof of ownership, and C) up to date information of the fair market value of every item in the collection you are claiming.

One of the big reasons for the reason I still do pickups videos on my YouTube channel, even though they're supposedly passe. By documenting all of my pickups, I guarantee I can at least show my insurance company that I legitimately owned the items I'm asking for replacement.
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Zagnorch
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« Reply #7 on: August 26, 2020, 04:53:21 PM »

One of the big reasons for the reason I still do pickups videos on my YouTube channel, even though they're supposedly passe. By documenting all of my pickups, I guarantee I can at least show my insurance company that I legitimately owned the items I'm asking for replacement.

I can just picture you sitting down with your insurance company's loss assessment guy after a tornado has completely leveled your pad, the both of you going through every single haul video you ever posted on YouTube. That insurance company would go bankrupt just trying to comp you on all your Zag-Box (TM) goodies!
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« Reply #8 on: August 31, 2020, 06:32:46 PM »

One of the big reasons for the reason I still do pickups videos on my YouTube channel, even though they're supposedly passe. By documenting all of my pickups, I guarantee I can at least show my insurance company that I legitimately owned the items I'm asking for replacement.

I can just picture you sitting down with your insurance company's loss assessment guy after a tornado has completely leveled your pad, the both of you going through every single haul video you ever posted on YouTube. That insurance company would go bankrupt just trying to comp you on all your Zag-Box (TM) goodies!

LOL, probably not, since I have pretty good coverage, but yeah, I get what you mean. My big thing is, I know I probably wouldn't be able to replace everything with the insurance money. But if I could get the maximum claim amount, and use it to replace the more expensive stuff, the limited/special/collector's edition pieces, expensive Saturn games, shmups, etc. then most of the rest I can piece together again over time, if I chose to do so. Same for my CD and vinyl collections. I have some stuff that is fairly rare, limited print kinds of items, and some of those will be 2-3x original market value (minimum) to replace, so that would be my priority. I don't need the insurance company to replace my $10 Metallica CD, or $20 Metallica reprint vinyl. That stuff I could (and would) replace on my own. But the small batch print CDs from defunct labels (250 copies worldwide, for example), or limited edition vinyl releases that are limited to just a few hundred pieces, those are the kinds of things I'd want to replace w/ the insurance money. Most of the rest I can reacquire again as I have funds and interest. Assuming my phone isn't taken in the fire, I'd have most of the tunes on my microSD card, so I could still at least listen to most of it, but the actual ownership is still something I'd want to re-establish, if possible.
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LuoJieRui
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« Reply #9 on: August 31, 2020, 09:40:47 PM »

I should follow up and let you guys know how things went but the evacuation warning was lifted a few days ago and the house did not in fact end up burning down. The weather has been cooler here thankfully, and they have been fighting the fires back from the area where my parents' place was. Thanks all for the kind words and thankfully I don't have to remove stuff from my collection folders.

@Zagnorch It has been nuts here lately with all this smoke like three years in a row hasn't it? I have lived in the Bay Area my whole life and never had something like this happen until like 2017. I bought a box of N95's after that and have had to order another box every year because there is always another fire somewhere in the NorCal region. The fire being this close was too real though. I am really going to try and keep my collection portable from now on and follow the other steps I wrote that night while it was still fresh in my mind.
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MetalFRO
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« Reply #10 on: September 01, 2020, 09:31:07 AM »

Glad to hear it's okay, and  you're able to go home!
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Zagnorch
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« Reply #11 on: September 10, 2020, 06:31:16 PM »

Although they're largely contained, the lightning complex fires are still active in my area. The smoke in the sky is so thick that daytime looks like dusk. Also, everything is bathed in dull yellow light part of the day, and a grayish orange-pink the rest of the day.

Although they hardly do justice to what I see with my own eyes, here are a few examples from my front yard...





...and of my front yard.




However, as scary as this is, it's nothing compared to what our Oregonian compatriots are experiencing with their very own wildfires:



After watching that, I gotta lie down for a while.

Stay safe, everybody...
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« Reply #12 on: September 21, 2020, 01:02:21 AM »

Thanks for sharing. Lifelong bay area resident here as well. I live pretty close to the SCU lightning complex. In fact, at one point the border for the mandatory evac zone was within mere walking distance for a few days, yikes. Pretty scary.

As a precaution when the warning (but not evac) zone was moving in, I decided to pack some things ahead of time in case the fire would creep towards our direction. Going through that in the moment made it all the more real and goes back to what you said about the attitude of invincibility going away. It definitely wasn't easy to choose what to take and what to leave behind when it came down to it.

Glad everything turned out ok.
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techwizard
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« Reply #13 on: October 03, 2020, 05:48:23 PM »

Very scary what you guys are going through! Thanks for the updates and the tips, there are some great ideas in there. I would also add that if you track your games in a list that has the price and can be sorted, like an excel spreadsheet, you could quickly sort your list by price and at least you'd know which games cost you the most and to grab those first. That doesn't help with current replacement value of course, but it's a good place to start in a desperate situation.

My collection is currently split up between home and a storage unit, with the majority in storage. I have maybe 100 games or so at home, another 700-ish in storage, some of the ones at home are here because of value but some are here just because I want to play them. Unfortunately the biggest threat to us is earthquake and tsunami, neither of which have much if any warning. There's fire risk everywhere, but forest fires are hopefully unlikely here as I'm on a peninsula of an island that has never had any major fires. There are some woods across the highway so it's not impossible, but being surrounded by ocean I hope it's unlikely.
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Zagnorch
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« Reply #14 on: October 05, 2020, 07:48:41 PM »

Still getting some smoke in the south bay from the ongoing Sonoma & Napa fires just a 2-3 hours drive north of me. It's pretty much a given that the California wildfire season is the entire year 'round now. What's scary is that I live less than 2 miles from the foot of a range of hills covered in oak trees and very dry forest litter. Much like earthquakes, it's not a question of if, but when the big blaze will happen. I've been storing water like crazy the last few weeks, just to be on the safe side.

BTW in case anybody cares, you can keep track of the ongoing wildfires in the state of California here: https://www.fire.ca.gov/incidents/
« Last Edit: October 05, 2020, 07:51:07 PM by Zagnorch » Logged

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