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Off to a Solid Start : It took around nine hours and cost $168.94. There's more to be done. But a handy homeowner finds that with planning, he can in one weekend clear several hurdles toward earthquake safety.

Earthquake Safety. SECOND OF THREE PARTS

March 12, 1994|JOHN O'DELL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

As usual, my wife was right. I didn't get it all accomplished in one weekend: It is my list of earthquake safety chores.

I decided several weeks ago to bow to the inevitability of another major quake and set about making our house as earthquake safe as my talents and budget would allow.

The goal is to reduce the likelihood of valuable possessions being damaged in a quake and to reduce as much as possible the chances that anyone in the house would be injured.

When I wrote here of my plans two weeks ago, I'd talked with a home safety inspection specialist to get ideas on what to look for and had made a tour of my home to determine what needed to be done.

With that list in hand--chores ranged from fastening the tall cabinet in the living room to bracing boxes in the garage--I spent several evenings at the local home improvement center, wandering the aisles and getting ideas for materials I'd need.

After listing each chore and what was needed to accomplish it, I went back and bought the stuff. In all, I figure that saved about four hours of weekend time.

Here's what I was able to accomplish last weekend, what it cost and how the jobs turned out:

Job: Secure Knickknacks

What it took: Applying a small blob of sticky white wax to the bottom of each figurine and then firmly pressing each item back into place on the shelving.

Material used: Wax adhesive

Cost: $2 for two ounces.

Availability: Antique and collectible stores, some hardware stores.

Tools needed: A wooden stick to spread wax.

Time: 90 minutes (included is the time it took to dust and polish the glass shelves and mirrored walls of the curio cabinets.

Benefits: Collectibles are firmly anchored to the glass shelves and won't tumble off or bang into each other in a quake. They also don't shake or rattle when someone runs through the living room. And unless you lie on your back and look up under the shelves, the wax is invisible, so it doesn't detract from the things on display. And the wax goes a long way. The two-ounce container I bought will probably do 200 figurines (or the same 50 four times each).

Minuses: Makes it harder to dust--you either have to clean around each piece, or pry them all up, wipe off the wax (at least it comes off pretty easily with warm water), dust, then reapply wax to each piece and stick it back down.

Hint: Short of a liberal dose of epoxy cement, nothing is going to prevent things from moving in a really big quake--even if the objects stay put, the shelves they're fixed to might fall. So don't knock yourself out sticking down everything in sight. Just fasten down the things you'd most hate to lose.

Job: Add Latches to Cabinets

What it took: This was tedious but easy. I simply attached plastic child-safety latches to the insides of each of our 19 kitchen cabinet and four bathroom cabinet doors.

Material: Child-proof latches.

Cost: $1.78 for a package of three--$15.34, including tax, for 24 latches.

Availability: At most hardware and home improvement stores.

Tools: Drill and bit for pilot holes; screwdriver.

Time: 2.5 hours

Benefits: Invisible, inexpensive and will keep cabinet doors from opening and cabinet contents from spilling out during a quake.

Drawbacks: Until your memory banks take over and the routine becomes automatic, you have to remember each time your open a cabinet to reach in and depress the safety latch. It gets frustrating to pull open the doors only to have them abruptly stop moving after the first inch or so.

Job: Secure Boxes on Shelves

What it took: It took some thinking--and some rethinking. I didn't want to rebuild the shelving or hang full doors--the cost and weight both were prohibitive.

My first plan called for installing rigid 2-by-4 bars across the front of the shelves to hold back the storage boxes, but the logistics for attaching the bars so they would stay put in a quake but be easily removable to enable me to get to things were too daunting. Then, while pacing the aisles of my local lumber store, I saw the light--actually I saw the wire cables that they used to keep tall pieces of molding from falling down on customers.

So that's what I adapted, and now the shelves at the back of my garage sport a system of blue, vinyl-clad wire cables stretched horizontally across the shelving to keep boxes from falling down. The cables--two per shelf, one a few inches from the bottom and the other just above the mid-way mark--are secured at one end to a thick eyebolt screwed into the upright brace; at the other end they terminate in steel latches that clip onto another set of eyebolts.

Material: To secure four shelves, each four feet long, I bought 40 feet of 3/16-inch diameter vinyl clad wire cable; 16 cable clamps, used to permanently fasten the cable-ends because they can't be tied like rope; 16 eyebolts with 1 1/2-inch openings, and eight swivel snap latches.

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