The fire alarm went off last night, and instead of being a quick leave-the-building-shut-off-the-alarm-go-back routine, an impressive array of firetrucks (complete with a ladder being raised to the roof of our building) greeted us outside.
Thankfully it didn't turn into anything serious. Apparently there was a gas leak on the eighth floor (Ann & I are on the sixth), so they brought in fans to try to clear everything out. However something jumped out at me as we were waiting for everything to clear -- in case of a real fire, we'd be pretty screwed. I saw a few other people who had grabbed a handful of things on their way out (pictures & papers mostly). For the huge building, it was an incredibly small minority who had bothered to take anything more than their keys and wallet. But all my pictures, papers, and anything else of necessary value (which are mostly digital anyway) are located exclusively in our apartment and no where else. Yeah, I've been good about moving things to CD/DVD every few months, but its not like a fire would only take out the originals and leave the backups.
As a result, my immediate task for the next few days is to gather up everything that I would want saved (digitally at least), burn it to CD and mail it home to California for safe keeping. An offsite filesystem (~1TB or so) would be ideal so you could make periodic backups -- but absent that, this will have to do.
I've already had the experience of losing pictures and documents from a hard drive that went belly up when I had not made any backups. I can't imagine the multiplier effect of having everything taken out by fire -- on top of everything else you have to worry about.