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posted: 5/11/2012 5:35 AM

Super handyman: Be prepared in case of an emergency

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Hardly a day goes by when we don't hear about an earthquake, tornado or flood. If it hasn't happened to you yet, you must be doing something right! But surely your luck will run out eventually. Being prepared is smart, and could make these times go a little more smoothly.

• You should keep emergency phone numbers programmed in your phones -- all of them.

• Make sure you have a working fire extinguisher on hand and that you know how to use it. Do so only after you have called emergency services.

• Make sure you know how to shut off all utilities to your home. If you need special wrenches or keys to access these areas, keep them on hand.

• Create a plan for you and your family in case of an emergency. Find a safe place inside your home to go during a bad storm. Establish an escape plan to follow in case you have to evacuate your home, and decide where to meet once you're outside the house.

• Store a bag with emergency supplies in the safe place in your home. A three-day supply is the standard you should strive for. Keep a supply of medicines you take regularly, water, food and clothes. Don't forget items you may need for your pets, like food, carriers and leashes.

• It's also a good idea to keep copies of certain documents you may need, such as insurance and medical paperwork.

• Recently, laptops and smartphones have been used to notify friends and family after emergencies. You may want to keep an old laptop or smartphone on hand in your backpack, with chargers.

• Keep some extra cash on hand as well. If the power is out, it may be your only way to purchase food or gas if you need it.

• DIY'ers will want to have a good-size tarp, hammer, nails, staples, tape, radios, batteries and other odds and ends on hand.

• Check with the Red Cross and other first responders in your area for some specific items that you may also need.

Being prepared is a super way to handle any emergency situation!

Handy strip magnets

Magnets always come in handy around the shop. They can be used to collect and hold metal hardware, and we love to keep smaller magnets in our toolboxes and on the workbench. Strip magnets are flexible and come in a variety of lengths. Glue one onto the top of your ladder. It sure could come in handy for holding on to those small pieces of hardware that could get dropped or roll off and be lost. Plus, you might not have to climb down the ladder to pick up a lost screw while you are working. These flexible magnetic strips are available at some hardware stores and craft dealers, and a whole roll won't cost you more than a couple of bucks.

The versatile coffee can

There are lots of ways to store a garden hose, and some are more trouble and more costly than they're worth. But if you are looking for a simple solution that won't cost a bundle, grab an empty coffee can and attach it directly to a wall or fence post with screws through the bottom of the can so that the open end faces outward. You can wind up the hose and drape it over the can. Then you can put extra nozzles, washers and other accessories in the can. Save and use the lid on the end of the can to protect these items if you wish. It's a super-easy and inexpensive way to hang your hose.

Super hints

• Graphite powder is the best lubricant for locks, but it's kind of messy. We suggest carefully squirting just a little on your key and then working the key back and forth in the lock. Then turn the lock several times. It will be like a new lock!

• I had three mismatched patio tables that I had hung on to for no particular reason; I'm really bad about that! I got some paint and painted them all the same color to match the rest of my patio furniture. Then I ordered plastic table tops from a local supplier, cut to fit each table. They look great and didn't cost very much. Now I have plenty of tables for all of my guests, and they match the chairs I already had.

• We don't have to cut glass often, thank goodness. One thing we've learned throughout the years is to lubricate your cutting wheel before using it. You can use oil or, better yet, transmission fluid. It helps you get a smoother break.

Q. I would like to find a solution for an ongoing problem in my bathroom. We have painted the walls three times, and we still get peeling paint after only a year or two. What can we do, next time, to ensure better results?

A. It could be a problem related to too much moisture in the room. Do you have and use ventilation? Make sure the fan is in good working order, and leave it on longer to see if this solves the moisture problem. Make sure there is no leaking inside the wall. Scrape off all loose paint, prime with a good-quality primer and use a good-quality paint as well.

Q. Our basement is dry, but still we have a problem with peeling paint. What gives? How can we keep this from happening?

A. Are you doing everything you can to avoid moisture problems on the outside the house? Make sure gutters are in place and are carrying water away from the foundation walls. When you are ready to paint again, remove all of the loose paint, seal the wall with a concrete wall sealer and then apply more paint. Buy the best-quality paint you can afford.

Q. We finally had our house painted. But after the painters left, I found a lot of spots or drips of paint on our concrete sunroom floor. How should I go about removing these spots?

A. You're lucky that the drips are on concrete. You can use paint stripper to get the paint off. That's all you need to do. You also might consider applying a water sealer on the surface to keep it from absorbing any stains. Read and follow the package directions.

Reader tips

• We had a couple of broken windows after the last storm, and I needed to remove the glass and put up some temporary blockage because of the delay in getting them replaced. I put several strips of wide masking tape over the broken glass before trying to remove it. This kept it mostly in one piece, so that even though it was broken, the glass shards stayed together on the tape until the whole thing was ready to go into the trash. There was a lot less broken glass around to pick up afterward.

• I installed several eye hooks on my garage wall to use as anchors for bungee cords. I use them to hold a variety of materials on the wall so they are securely out of the way of the cars. I just wrap the bungee around the material and hook it to one of the eye hooks on the wall. Since there are several, I can use as many as I need to "tie up to." They are super handy!

• We started saving plasticware from our takeout runs. These items really come in handy in the workshop. I've also been able to use them for measuring insecticides for my garden -- it's much easier than using other measuring cups that have to be washed out. These can just be thrown away in the garbage when I'm finished with them. The salsa/dressing cups are perfect, and spoons are super handy.

• I bought a new storage caddie for all of my yard tools, so I had the old spring-clip rack on hand. I was saving it for a garage sale but ended up mounting it on my workshop wall. I now use it to store several of my hand tools. I keep my hammers, hand saw and several other tools on this storage rack. It's perfect for these, and keeps them ready for easy access.

• My husband works security for an apartment complex, and he told me about a great idea for a personal alarm. You can use your car's panic alarm. Most of the time the car is within the range, and it will alert others in the area that something or someone is in trouble. I can see how it could attract attention, even if it's parked in your garage.


• Every do-it-yourselfer has at least one can of WD-40 on hand. But did you know that the company has a whole line of specialty products? There is a Rust Release Penetrant Spray, Water Resistant Silicone Lubricant, Protective White Lithium Grease and Long-Term Corrosion Inhibitor. These are a little harder to find than the original formula but are worth the hunt. To find out more about how they work and where you can purchase them, go to

• When the power goes out in a flood and you need a pump, what can you do? The V-Pump might just be the perfect solution for you. It's a small, pocket-size multipurpose submersible water pump that has no moving parts and pumps up to 1,200 gallons per hour, all with no electricity. All you need is a garden hose, and you're in business. It sure would come in handy, and for about $20, it's well worth the cost. To find out more, go to or call (855) 428-7867.

• Write to Al and Kelly Carrell in care of the Daily Herald, P.O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006 or visit the Carrells' website at

2012, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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