Shoppers Crowd Stores for Quake-Survival Items

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Some shoppers were frantic, others were confused. But all were determined.

Throughout Orange County, residents motivated by Tuesday's death-dealing Bay Area earthquake spent part of their Saturday preparing for a similar catastrophe here.

"We talked about it after the (October, 1987) quake in Whittier, but we didn't do anything," said Joe Sokol, who was shopping Saturday afternoon with his wife, Michele, at Long Beach Surplus in Westminster. "This time we decided we'd get it done."

The couple from Buena Park, like most shoppers Saturday, said they had planned to eventually get a survival kit together, but Tuesday's quake jolted them into action.

"We're getting the basic things," said Michele Sokol, "so that if something happens in the next week or two, we'll be all right."

Camping and surplus-store salespeople in the area say about half their customers since Tuesday's 6.9-magnitude temblor have been those searching for earthquake survival essentials.

"It's amazing the way this stuff is blowing out of here," said Darrin de Montmorency at Long Beach Surplus, where shoppers filled their baskets with an array of goods from the store's densely stocked shelves. De Montmorency, who has worked at the surplus store for the past three years, says the bulk of the shopping traffic hit Saturday.

"After the Whittier earthquake, people were in here right after. But with the San Francisco quake, there was a little waiting period," he said.

On Saturday, as clerks restocked shelves, rearranged displays and answered questions, few shoppers left stores empty-handed.

Many shoppers were doing the one-stop shop by purchasing pre-made kits, costing from $10 to $125, depending on size and contents.

Most kits include necessities including waterproof matches, flashlights, blankets, first-aid care, food, an AM radio and water purification tablets.

Other shoppers sought personalized kits, some spending up to $400, so they could include other essentials, such as pet food for their animals.

"My kid can take care of himself, my dog can't," said Michele Sokol. She and her husband were considering making a kit for their home--which will include dog food. "We can't get everything at once, but we saw those poor people in San Francisco and decided we can afford to go in the hole a little bit now."

At The Grant Boys in Costa Mesa, salesman Scott McLeod said they've sold their entire stock of emergency kits, and have ordered more. "Usually after an earthquake, we get people coming in, but this time it's been the most," said McLeod, who has worked at the store for nearly three years.

And Diane Alvarez, owner of Long Beach Surplus, says they have doubled up on typical equipment that goes into making an earthquake survival kit, and have quadrupled their stock of emergency water packets.

A few people also visited area hardware stores to buy items for earthquake-proofing their homes. Most were looking for ways to secure home furnishings, such as water heaters and stand-up furniture, said Craig Glanville, an employee at National Lumber in El Toro.

According to McLeod, most people seemed more concerned with emergency preparedness in their cars, rather than their homes. He speculated that the death toll resulting from the collapse of the Nimitz freeway in San Francisco sparked concern among commuters.

The freeway disaster "really motivated us," said Sharon Kingsbury of Westminster. Her husband, Al, said that since they both commute about 30 miles a day to work, survival kits for the car was their top priority.

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