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GADGETS : Home Alarm for Earthquakes; Cushion-Grip Garden Tools


While seismologists try to perfect the science of predicting earthquakes, those who live in particularly vulnerable areas might want to invest in a Quakeawake. The small alarm claims to give a 30-second warning by responding to the low-frequency sound waves that precede temblors.

"Every earthquake causes two separate types of seismic shock waves," says Dave Elston of California Quakeawake Inc., Century City. "The first, weaker wave moves very fast, ahead of the second, more powerful, more destructive wave. The alarm senses the first wave so you can protect yourself from the second wave."

The battery-powered Quakeawake is $35 from Hammacher Schlemmer, (800) 543-3366.

You don't need an alarm to alert you to falling leaves. A look out the window will do. You may, however, need a remedy for blisters after a day of raking. Or you may want to try garden tools with comfortable, cushion-grip handles called Gard 'n' Grip. They're made by True Temper of Camp Hill, Pa.

The company says in tests against regular wood handled tools, Gard 'n' Grip caused 50% fewer blisters and required 38% less effort from the forearms. A boon for the elderly or the physically compromised.

The line includes several rakes, a hoe, trimmer, edger, shears, shovel--each under $28--and a wheelbarrow for $69. Look for them at Ace Hardware and True Value or call the company at (717) 737-1500.

If fall cleanup is too much work for a rake, Black & Decker has the Yardcleaner Blower-Vac system. It sucks up leaves and yard debris, then blows it into a garbage can.

Even pine cones are vacuumed up in the megaphone-shaped tube. Its five-blade fan mulches some of the larger organic material that can clog less powerful units. The material is blown through an eight-foot tube into any standard trash can. Rather than bagging it for the dump, use it for mulch.

The blower-vac, which plugs into any standard electrical outlet, is most suited for large lawns. The unit is noisy but quite powerful. Watch that it doesn't suck up the cat.

With leaf collection attachment, it is $119 at home centers. Or call the company in Hunt Valley, Md., at (301) 527-7000.

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