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Fasten Your Stuff Now: It's in for a Bumpy Ride

March 26, 1994|JOHN O'DELL

Stuff falls down in an earthquake. That fact has been underscored in quake after quake.

Most of the injuries treated in emergency rooms immediately after the Loma Prieta quake in 1989 were caused when people were hit on the head by pictures, curios, books and other things that fell from their walls and shelves. The injuries that didn't come from blows came from cuts when people stepped on broken glass from picture frames, dishes and shattered windows.

With that knowledge, it only makes sense to be sure anything heavy and above eye level is either fastened down or moved to a lower place on the shelves or in the cabinets. Pictures can be secured to the walls by clamping the hanger to the wire strap on the back of the frame.

Contents of cabinets can be kept inside by securing the doors with hidden child-safe latches or more expensive ornamental hardware that latches. Tall furniture--bookcases, curio cabinets, entertainment centers and china closets--can be bolted to the wall studs.

To avoid a mess of broken glass--especially in bedrooms, where bare feet are likely to be the rule when the earth shakes at 4 a.m.--remove the glass in picture frames. If you must have something covering the photos or artwork, use scratch-resistant plastic; it costs more than glass, but is much lighter and won't shatter and turn your floor into a minefield.

Large picture windows and sliding doors--the most likely glass expanses to explode into dagger-edged shards in a big quake--can be made safer by applying clear or tinted plastic film. The product, available in many home improvement stores and some drapery shops, was designed to provide a shield from heat and light but also works to hold the glass together when it breaks.

The proliferation of closet organizing systems makes it relatively easy to arrange bedroom and hall closets so that heavy items are at the lower levels and the upper shelving is reserved for lightweight things--linens and towels, sweaters in boxes, sleeping bags, kids games and such.

Plastic storage bins can be used to help secure cleaning supplies, loose cosmetics, medicines and other items that come in bottles. This not only keeps them from banging together and breaking in a quake, it keeps your shelves neater all year long.

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