Emergency Preparedness

Building Secret Compartments in the Office and at Home – Save Your Stuff

By Guest Blogger, Terry Wood

I think everyone plays with the idea of having secret places to stash stuff. More often than not, that something is of great monetary or sentimental value, like precious jewelry, rare stamps and coins, family history, heirlooms or even love letters from long ago. It could also be a gun for self-protection or a stash of cash that is being kept aside for a rainy day.

Obviously, the proverbial safe behind the painting may keep most people out but its kind of cliché’ and in a robbery, they will be looking for that kind of thing. So, this article is about concealed compartments that no one can find!

My grandfather squirreled away, in a secret compartment he built into a wall, some time capsule family history/journal notes. They were discovered 50 years after he hid them away, just after his death. They were super fun to find, added to the family history stories and clarified some issues for settling his estate. I thought it was funny that even my grandmother didn’t know anything about it.

There are literally hundreds of places in your house of office where you can hide these valuable items that will frustrate even the most determined of professional thieves or it can protect your things from disasters. All it takes is to learn how to build secret compartments. Of course, depending on what you want to hide, the secret compartment will vary in size… maybe it will be a secret room!

Take for instance the hollow spaces in walls, which are typically sheetrock nailed on 2″ x 4′” studs that run vertically from floor to ceiling and are spaced 16 inches apart. Even with little practice, you can find where these spaces are by tapping along the wall. Then, with a coping saw, you can carefully cut a hole to create a suitable stash between the beams. Just remember that the hole must be smaller than the object that you will use to cover it, like a line of shelves, a picture frame or a gun rack. Here’s a fun video to show you how:

If the item you want to conceal is thin like a few thousand dollar bills, shares of stocks or treasury bills, then you may want to make a false bottom in one of the drawers of your favorite desk. To make a false bottom drawer, cut a liner from a suitable material. But in doing this, remember that the measurement must be exact and you must use the same kind of wood because things cannot look altered. If you cannot find the same kind of material, you will have to repaint or revarnish the whole desk and every drawer. Then, glue a washer at the center and at each corner of the real bottom as well as to the false bottom. When the false bottom is inserted in the drawer, the washers will line up and create a secret compartment of desired thickness. Lifting the false bottom can be made through the use of a strong magnet or inserting a pen in a small hole at the bottom of the drawer to push up the false bottom. Here’s a video about that process:

Other common items that can “double” as secret compartments are books and even the heel of your shoe. An old dictionary, for instance, can be turned into an innocent-looking secret compartment for your hand gun. All you need is a knife to cut out the space in the inside pages for the hand gun, tape the compartment and you’re done. On the other hand, the simplest way to turn a heel of a shoe into a secret compartment is to lift the heel pad from the inside, then carve out a space using a drill and a sharp knife. Insert the object, glue back the flap and join James Bond in his top secret missions. Fun… and useful!

Of course, secret compartments are a great way to keep your valuables safe. But you should also consider other methods such as an insurance plan for art, collectables or heirlooms. Another “plan” would be to keep duplicates of ownership documents, appraisals and the such at another location (a sister to states away from you?).

For more about how to save your stuff, CLICK HERE

Author bio:

This post was written by Terry Wood.  Terry is an insurance expert with US Insurance Net, a site that provides life insurance reviews.

Editor’s note: What can be done to “modify” one of these super secret hiding compartments to make it “archival”? Archival means that materials of the storage container will not add to the deterioration of what is stored inside. This would be important for paper items like letters, certificates, old photos. Here are some tips:

1. line the hidden drawer or box with an acid free paper – several layers.

2. store items enclosed in a zip lock baggie or Tupperware container

3. Don’t make your hidden compartment where it will get extra hot or extra cold.


Collectible Protection In Case Of An Earthquake

By Eleanor Nelson, Guest Blogger

From the Editor: This preservation enthusiast from England, with ties in California, has asked to reach out to you and share 7 important tips for protecting cherished family possessions in case of a natural disaster. And there are some quick, fun videos links for you. This information is just as applicable for someone in Hurricane Country or who lives in areas of severe winter storms. If you know someone who lives in that type of climate or country, do them a favor and pass this great article along to them.

There is no “earthquake season,” as there are seasons for wildfires, tornadoes or blizzards. In California, we know the ground may start shaking under our feet at any time, so it pays to be prepared all the time.

That is why, on Thursday, October 18 we at the FACL will be participating in The Great ShakeOut earthquake drill, along with over 17 million people worldwide (12.9 million in America alone). Wherever they are, whatever they are doing, everyone will “drop, cover and hold on” for 60 seconds, as if a real earthquake were occurring.

Events like this are a useful reminder that while disasters are not preventable, much of the damage to our personal property is definitely preventable. With that in mind, here are 7 tips on ways to increase the chances that your collectibles, family history valuables and keepsakes will come through an earthquake unharmed.

1. Check the strength of the hanging hooks and wires on wall-mounted artwork. They should be well-anchored and over-sized. “Over-engineer” the hanging materials. Paintings can rip all too easily if they fall onto something; even the corners of furniture can cause serious damage.

2. Secure items on shelves or in cabinets with Museum Wax, available at http://tipsforfineartcollectors.org/museum-wax-package/. (watch the short video!) Even a quake of relatively low magnitude will shift and topple standing objects.

Museum Wax SaveYourStuff.com

Museum Wax anchors collectibles in a shaking building

3. Keep your most important photographs together, in albums or containers that will allow for swift, easy removal in an emergency. Its called a “grab n’ go’ box.” Overwhelmed with so lots of stuff in boxes?! Here’s a quick video on how to get through it quickly… and in a fun way: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7j5RdOUkLv4 (leave a comment and THUMBS UP?)

4. Store items of significance away from water pipes and water heaters. Damage to your home’s plumbing system could turn an earthquake into a flood! Water not only causes serious immediate damage, it also leads to mold, resulting in further destruction. FEMA says all it takes in 2” of water to do massive damage.

5. Make copies of important documents, and take photographs of your precious possessions. Keep these in a safe location, offsite–preferably in a different state entirely! You will need these photos (and values) if you want to make an insurance claim. Questions about appraisals and claims, go to www.faclappraisals.com and call Richard Holgate, International Society of Appraisers 805 895 5121 for a free chat.

6. It is possible you will need supplemental earthquake insurance. Check that the contents of your house are covered by your homeowner’s policy. The policy should cover heirlooms under “Contents” and not require a further Fine Arts rider.

7. Finally, buy a copy of ‘How to Save Your Stuff From A Disaster’ at www.saveyourstuff.com.

Great suggestions, Eleanor. You can “take those tips to the bank.”

If you have art conservation/restoration questions call Scott Haskins at 805 564 3438.

Follow us on Facebook at Scott M. Haskins and at Save Your Stuff

Keywords: collectibles, family history, fine art insurance, art appraisal, art conservation, Museum Wax, ShakeOut, keepsakes, drop cover and hold, Scott Haskins, Eleanor Nelson


Sad Family History Story From Japan’s Earthquake/Tsunami- But A Lesson Can Be Learned

Irreplaceable originals

Ancestors, children growing up, weddings... some are more important than others

From the news… With each passing day after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, more and more poignant stories of survivors and victims are emerging.
Immediately after the quake, Katsutaro Hamada, 79, fled to safety with his wife. But then he went back home to retrieve a photo album of his granddaughter, 14-year-old Saori, and grandson, 10-year-old Hikaru.
Just then the tsunami came and swept away his home. Rescuers found Hamada’s body, crushed by the first floor bathroom walls. He was holding the album to his chest, Kyodo news agency reported.
“He really loved the grandchildren. But it is stupid,” said his son, Hironobu Hamada. “He loved the grandchildren so dearly. He has no pictures of me!”
Grab n’ Go… planning ahead is really a good idea… whether its because of fire, water, earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, tsunami… plan ahead. Here are some people’s opinions about the book How To Save Your Stuff From A Disaster can help you get ready: http://saveyourstuffblog.com/what-people-are-saying-about-the-book/

Discover Unknown Secrets To Survive An Earthquake Like The One In Japan- 5 Tips

Japanese earthquake

The house didn't fall... but did the flying vase hit anyone?

Everyone thinks, when they imagine an earthquake, that some building is going to fall on them. But this isn’t usually the case! The Japanese Earthquake today makes our blood run cold for the devastation… but what does this earthquake news teach us about our potential for a “situation” where we live? This article addresses a niche expertise that you will NOT FIND ANYWHERE ELSE and is of extreme importance. We do not write about health and safety issues, building structural problems, economic matters etc.

But we do talk about something that is IMPERATIVE for your personal safety! When people imagine an earthquake, they think that some building is going to fall on them, but it is far more likely that the cremation urn on the mantle will fly off and hit someone!

What do you cherish and fear losing in the next earthquake? Heirlooms, crystal, collectibles, family history, intellectual property? What items of value would impact your business continuity and how would these items, flying around in an earthquake, affect personal safety?!

Here is an earthquake fact: Notice in the photos of the earthquake damage that you see on the news and/or the Internet that not all homes, building etc are completely destroyed. Yes, there is an epicenter that gets hit hard. But not even all the  buildings in the critical area get hit hard… and there are millions of people in the surrounding areas that are “just” rattled. Not only could something flying around the room be dangerous, losing treasure family/personal items and be heartbreaking. IT ALWAYS PAYS TO PREPARE in order to:

  1. Keep things from flying around in the air during the earthquake for personal safety
  2. Protect important historical items
  3. Save financially valuable items
  4. Protect and save emotionally valuable items
  5. Know ahead of time what will impact your home of business if you lose it.

Surprisingly, an easy, fast, do-it-yourself anchoring technique can save you in all of these five needs of being protected mentioned above… in all of these problem areas… this will help you BIG TIME! http://www.tipsforartcollectors.org/museumwax-package

Japanese vase makes a flying projectile

Japanese vase makes a flying projectile during an earthquake

A recent news video on earthquakes stated that seismologist experts record over 27,000 earthquakes in the US each year! (most barely detectable but an indication of potential).

Even if you are safe after an earthquake, broken items like glassware, crystal, collectibles, ceramics can make it hazardous to move around and get things done. Not only will these broken items of value would impact your business continuity and personal safety… you will be anxious to talk to insurance adjuster later. So,

  • Prepare ahead of time with an inventory of emotional, historical and financially valuable items
  • Take photos
  • Make copies of documents of ownership, authentication, appraisals etc.. and…
  • Keep your copies in another city!

Scott M. Haskins has worked in both Europe and the U.S. as a professional conservator since 1975. He has years of experience planning for and responding after earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, mold, fire and everyday home accidents and is the author of “How to Save Your Stuff from a Disaster,” (http://www.saveyourstuffblog.com) a non-technical book with instructions on how to protect and save important documents, photos and other items not covered by insurance He wrote a booklet on “How To Respond After an Earthquake” of which the Bank of America Corporation distributed over 500,000 through their Human Resource Depts after the Northridge Earthquake.

Call for interview at 805 564 3438 or

e-mail at best_artdoc@yahoo.com

Facebook Pages at: “Save Your Stuff”

Twitter: “saveyourstuff”

YouTube: “Preservation Coach” and “bestartdoc”

Please give this article a THUMBS UP!


Tim Says, “Don’t Prepare to Protect or Save Collectibles from an Earthquake?” Wake up Tim!!

The picture hook gave away when the office building shook

The picture hook gave away when the office building shook. It could have been avoided in a couple of ways.

Here’s a comment from a reader who expresses a common misconception that could really hurt you in the end:

I’m researching into earthquakes and disaster management for my Masters… and came across this site… How could you believe that the people hit by the earthquake in Chile could care about picture frames getting damaged or vases chipped… as if they own a camera to protect photos?! … Where is the information about how people can donate to help those whose lives have been ruined and have nowhere to sleep and nothing to eat?

I should have protected my collectibles with Museum Wax!

"I should have taken Scott's advice and used Museum Wax to anchor down my collectibles!!!"

Actually, I cut his rant short but you get the idea… So, here are some points I’d like to be crystal clear for you…cause I really do care what you take away from this website:
1. Tim, not everybody that lives outside the US or in a poor country is dirt poor with not even enough money to buy a camera. Your attitude is so Americano Ignoramus! For instance, China has one of the lowest per capita income levels for workers in the world and yet, more than 10% of the country is affluent. Let’s see, 10% of 1.6 billion is… wow, 160 million people! (OK, now I feel better… on to what’s important to learn…)
2. Statistically, while there are some that suffer the full brunt of devastation in an earthquake, hurricane or tornado, there is 90% of the people in outlying areas that only get shook up, sustain some damage but survive very nicely. In other words, if a natural disaster hits your area full on, chances are, you will not be obliterated but you may lose cherished, treasured items you were not prepared to protect. These unprepared people will loose keepsakes, heirlooms, collectibles, family history and have moderate insurance claims. Most of this damage can be avoided, with preparation/preparedness. (for instance see “Quake Wax” at top of page)

3. Does stuff fly around when an earthquake or hurricane strikes? Anchoring down ceramics, frames, artwork in preparations for the “shake up” will keep them from flying around when the moment comes: that means better safety for you!
4. This article, like all the other information on this blog focuses ONLY on my expertise: the niche of emergency preparedness that you will NOT FIND ANYWHERE ELSE: the protection and saving of collectibles, artwork, heirlooms, family history, art related business assets. (see my book in “Products” in the side bar on this page)
5. There are LOTS of websites about emergency preparedness (health, home, information backup, federal, city and state programs) and donating to causes on the internet. Those areas are NOT my expertise.
6. I will be listing soon the organizations I recommend for giving/donating. Stay plugged into our website by being update automatically when we post an article by CLICKING NOW on the RSS feed.

Here’s a quick video testimonial you may enjoy:

Click on this link NOW for more info http://saveyourstuffblog.com/museum-wax-package/

Please, click now on the THUMBS UP to “like” our video and article.

If you see a thumbs down, Tim may have returned to the website!

Conservation/restoration questions? Appraisal questions? Insurance claim questions? Call toll free 888 704 7757


Protecting and Saving Your Family’s Heirlooms and Memorabilia

Family heirlooms and memorabilia have a special “value” that you should consider. This graceful Italian alabaster sculpture is a treasured heirloom from the owner’s mother. It was originally bought in the 1920’s in Florence  and was passed down from mother to daughter.  Sadly, due to improper packing and storage, the center section broke into several pieces.  This greatly upset the owner, as this heirloom was considered very valuable to her.

Damage due to improper packing and storage can be attributed to common sense mistakes.  For example, some clients damage pieces when they stack a heavy box on top of delicate items. However, not all potential damage is as easily avoided, and when tricky scenarios occur sometimes you need an expert opinion.  When advice is needed for packing and protecting home items, we have found such businesses as The UPS Store are extremely helpful… but don’t scrimp on the packing! Although it may require more time and money to protect your treasured valuables when packing, moving, and storing, it is less expensive than restoration.  Keep in mind that extra padding on all sides of a packing box is a cheap alternative to repair and loss of value. (more…)