Saturday, February 15, 2003

RADEL: 'Duct and cover'

Terrorists are no match for our tape


Duct tape. Who knew?

Apparently, the home improvement experts at the Department of Homeland Security thought they did.

It doesn't take a genius to recognize the fixer-upper powers of duct tape. The handyman's helper is a tool box on a roll.

But it took a bunch of bureaucrats to tout it as a lifesaver. The government's duct tape advisory this week noted that in the event of a biological, chemical or nuclear terrorist attack, the sticky silver-gray stuff could save your family.

Just follow these simple directions: Stick tape to plastic sheets. Cover doors and windows. Make one room airtight.

Once inside, thumb your nose at al-Qaida. Mutter foul oaths, "Just try to come and get me, Osama. I've got my duct tape to keep me warm. And safe." As long as the air lasts, which - experts say - is about five hours.

The Department of Homeland Security has a proposed budget of $35 billion. And this is the best it could up with on your dime and mine?

What's next, duct tape can repell North Korean nukes?

Duct and cover

We are now in the strange new world of duct and cover. Feels a lot like the old Cold War world of duck and cover where budding yuppies ducked under their school desks to survive an atomic blast.

The whole thing sounds fishy.

But then, so did that 2002 study by a Cincinnati doctor confirming that duct tape removed warts better than accepted methods.

The Department of Homeland Security's duct tape division may be onto something.

But I'm not convinced.

Still, there's no sense throwing caution to the wind. The terror alert is set on orange. That's serious. And today is Saturday, the high holy day for home-repair nuts like me - I always get a roll of duct tape for my birthday.

So, I'm itching to duct tape something.

But first, I need some expert advice.

Taping instructions

Tim Nyberg is the co-author of five books on duct tape.

He spoke by phone from his "duct-taped bunker" in Shoreview, Minn.

"It's stocked with a microwave and canned food. I forgot the water," Tim said.

"I set it up for a TV shoot. CNBC was just here. Had to make it look like I was partially paying attention to the government."

Tim doesn't buy Washington's advisory. He knows his favorite tape and plastic sheets are used to remove asbestos and fend off paint fumes. "But biological, chemical and nuclear attacks? Come on. I'm a skeptic on that."

He does believe the advisory is good for business.

Melanie Amato knows it is. She's the communications director at Henkel Consumer Adhesives. The Avon, Ohio, firm makes Duck brand duct tape.

Since Monday, she said, "sales nationwide have doubled." That's good news for Duck brand, which has a 46 percent share of the $150 million-a-year duct tape industry.

Talk of duct tape sales sent me to my supplier.

Bernie Small manages Small's Do It Best Hardware in Cheviot. Duct tape business at his store is up 300 percent since Monday.

This time of year, he normally moves one 24-roll case a week. This week, he's sold four cases.

"People are buying two and three rolls of plastic and four and five rolls of duct tape at a time," he said.

Bernie has resisted the temptation to stock up.

"I figure, if it's my time to go, I'm going."

Good attitude, Bernie.

But, before you go, do me a favor.

Put two rolls of duct tape aside for me.

Call Cliff Radel at 768-8379; or e-mail:

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