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Using Sweat Against Quakes : Volunteer labor can go far in improving safety in L.A. public schools

October 14, 1994

We know that many Los Angeles Unified School District buildings suffered extensive damage in the Northridge quake. We know that the LAUSD schools have found it difficult to climb a list of priorities that has included mending the freeways, the "ghost towns," housing and other damage. And we know that the schools haven't been able to remodel and meet building safety standards set after the 1971 Sylmar quake because the money just hasn't been there.

There are, however, some basic and necessary steps that can be taken now and that are not affected by fiscal limitations. These changes must be made to protect children, teachers and others in the event that the next major earthquake is not so kind in terms of timing and occurs during school hours. Right now, all we're hearing is a lot of griping and passing of the proverbial buck. Let's get on with it.

As the first anniversary of the Northridge temblor approaches, you can still walk into many schools and find bookcases that have not been bolted to the walls; boxes perched on high cabinets and filled with objects that could crash down; unanchored televisions on rickety carts; inadequately secured fans, overhead projectors and other large objects. In some science labs corrosive chemicals have not been strapped down.

Remedies are basic, and inexpensive for the most part. Nonetheless, there's a lot of complaining going on about whose responsibility is involved. We have an answer, and some schools have already taken appropriate action.

Teachers, administrators and other staff members, parents and students should join in to move unsecured boxes and poorly stored materials. They can spend an afternoon or evening with screwdrivers, pliers and a few hardware store items to anchor bookcases and heavy equipment. Afterward, they can all rest a little easier in the knowledge that the schools of the Los Angeles district are better prepared for the next big shake.

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