HAZARD, Ky. (FOX 56) – The eastern Kentucky floods are the first disaster that has led FEMA to bring in experts to help people save and restore their family heirlooms.

Employees with the Office of Environmental and Historic Preservation are visiting disaster recovery centers to try and teach people how the process works to try and salvage some items.  

“The main thing that we’ve heard about, number one is photographs. People will have family photos, photos from their childhood, or their children’s birthday parties or things like that that are covered in mud, that are a lot of times stuck together,” Kara Griffin with the “Save Your Family Treasures” Program told FOX 56.

Griffin along with Laura Jordan is part of the team in Hazard. For most items, it starts with three pans of water and a screen.

“A porch screen is definitely preferable, and you want to take your photos and lay them on top and have them partially submerged in the water, and you want to take the screen and just slightly agitate it. That will give the water the opportunity to get on top of the photos and kind of remove any debris, and then you’re going to move it into that second step and you’re going to repeat the process,” Jordan said.

By the time the items are in the third pan, they recommend a few, gentle passes with a brush, before setting it out to dry.

“You want to put this somewhere where you’re going to get some airflow, natural airflow. Not a hairdryer, not the direct sunlight,” Griffin said.

Masks and gloves are recommended, simply due to it not likely being known what all substances the items came in contact with. They also recommend having a lot of patience.

“One of the easiest mistakes is if people find some photos stuck together and they want to make sure to get all of them back and they just pull all of them apart,” Griffin said.

The process is time-consuming.

Books are among the most difficult items to restore due to the need to dry out each page. They recommend prioritizing what is most important to save.

For what can’t be immediately restored, they recommend carefully wrapping and freezing the items to help prevent more damage.

“You put that in there and what it does it puts a pause button on whatever active, cultures, mold, or mildew that are possibly transpiring inside the pages of this book,” Jordan said.

Flood victims can meet with experts this week at multiple FEMA disaster recovery centers. They will be at the Knott County Sportsplex and Hazard Community College now through Sunday and will be at the Clay County Community Center Friday through Sunday.

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