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TV REVIEWS : New Footage on 'Surviving' Quake

March 05, 1994|ROBERT KOEHLER

Maybe it's a case of watching too much PBS programming, but one of the first thoughts that crossed my mind after the ground stopped shaking on Jan. 17 was, "What happened to Henry Johnson?"

Johnson is The Man on earthquake preparedness--at least to those of us who probably watch too much PBS programming. His KCET-produced "Surviving the Big One," originally made after the Whittier quake, has set the standard by which other earthquake-safety TV programs are measured, because former firefighter Johnson personalized the information and demonstrated how his family prepared. He even pointed out a growing crack running under his Northridge home--that's right, Northridge. So, on Jan. 17, did the home come crashing down?

No, Johnson told The Times a few days after the temblor. But there seemed to be new lessons from the Northridge quake, and Johnson has added approximately 10 minutes of new footage to "Surviving" (on KCET-TV Channel 28 at 3 p.m. today and repeating at noon on March 20).

Johnson's primer is now no longer alone, nor is it exactly comprehensive. KCBS-TV Channel 2's "On Solid Ground" is rich with post-quake recovery tips, while home expert Kitty Bartholomew's special for KCET's "Life and Times" series, "Quick Fixes and Quake Safe," provides numerous suggestions for securing household items and making repairs. Both offer information missing from Johnson's guide, making them essential and complementary parts of an earthquake-safety video package.

But neither have Johnson's charisma nor his overwhelming twin messages that A) The Big One is survivable and that B) preparation begins today.

Some of his new material addresses the recent disaster; some of it doesn't. Most useful are generic tips ranging from stocking several days' worth of water to arranging a drill with children to ride out a quake in bed. Neither Johnson--nor any of those other preparedness reports--addresses the troubling evidence that steel-reinforced structures didn't endure the recent quake as well as expected. Nor do they tell the viewer about the latest items to secure heavy home equipment and where to purchase them.

But for viewers not acquainted with Johnson's guide, this is still the place to start on the road to seismic sanity.

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