Articles [2 of 2]:...homeland security

We’re stuck on duct tape

Gina Kim
Seattle Times staff reporter
1,001 words
14 February 2003
The Seattle Times
(Copyright 2003)

IN ADDITION to first aid and fashion, the sticky stuff may help with homeland security.

Oh, how handy the silver (or orange, burgundy, hot-pink or camouflage-patterned) adhesive can be.

Duct tape: the tape of thousands of uses.

Now the Department of Homeland Security is recommending Americans keep duct tape on hand in case of a chemical or biological attack. If such an attack occurs – be it the unleashing of nerve gas, cyanide or a virus – authorities recommend people find a room they can seal off with plastic sheeting and duct tape.

Who would have thought such a modest product could have the noble responsibility of saving lives?

Tim Nyberg knew.

“It’s been around since World War II. It’s stayed around, I think, by virtue of the fact that it’s a real good quick fix,” said Nyberg, half of the duo dubbed the “Duct Tape Guys,” and a self- proclaimed “duct-tape evangelist.” “I doubt there’s an American out there that doesn’t know about duct tape.”

And it’s saved lives before. In 1997, a Seattle doctor sealed the bleeding wound of his Cascades hiking companion after the companion tumbled 100 feet down a slope and came to rest with the sharp point of his ice ax embedded in his throat. The doctor scrambled after him, removed the ax and applied duct tape to the wound before getting help.

It’s also considered a “must-have” for unicyclists, who find that duct tape patches tires, as well as arm gashes.

Nyberg believes everyone should have several rolls of duct tape on hand … just in case. It’s not only good for removing lint from those black pants, but it’s effective for clamping the jaws of alligators shut when transporting them, like New Jersey firefighters did when squelching a blaze at the Ocean City Aquarium in 1999.

And duct tape lasts forever.

“There are stronger tapes, but they’re not nearly as versatile because you need other tools to cut it,” said Nyberg, who lives in Minnesota and has co-authored five books on the tape’s many applications.

Johnson & Johnson first developed the adhesive in the 1940s, according to the Duct Tape Guys. The U.S. military needed a waterproof tape to seal their ammunition boxes, so the company added a plastic layer to the adhesive and fabric layers of their cloth medical tape. Because of its waterproof nature, it was referred to as “duck tape.”

The durable, Army-green tape soon became employed for a plethora of other uses, such as strapping equipment to clothes and adhering broken taillights to Jeeps.

During the housing boom after the war, the tape was applied to heating and air-conditioning ducts, turned into the standard silver we know today, and became “duct tape.”

Although duct tape has since been found inferior to other tapes for sealing ducts by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientists, it has found a permanent home within society because of its resourcefulness.

“People use it for just about everything,” said Melanie Amato, director of communications for Henkel Consumer Adhesives, which makes Duck brand duct tape.

Duct tape has become the manacles of choice for robbers tying up their victims.

“We say duct tape in the wrong hands is a dangerous weapon,” said Nyberg. “But then again, so is an egg beater.”

And it’s become the material of choice for those wanting to make a fashion statement. From purses and wallets to prom dresses and kilts, duct tape fashion has reached cult-level status.

Nyberg, 49, owns several duct-tape tuxedos. The Web site sells duct-tape hats, belts, guitar straps and jewelry. And the tape is also used by some women to accentuate cleavage.

Last year, researchers at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma found duct tape to be an effective wart treatment. Although the researchers excluded facial and genital warts from their study, duct tape was more convenient and less costly than liquid nitrogen for treating other bodily warts.

Sales of Duck brand duct tape, one of more than a handful of duct- tape manufacturers, has doubled and tripled in some areas since the Department of Homeland Security’s recommendations, said Amato. The company has stepped up production by 40 percent to meet demand.

“We absolutely don’t test for that type of use, although Duck tape and poly-sheeting have been used in the painting industry as a vapor barrier,” she said. “But we are always amazed at what some of our consumers tell us they use it for.”

Raphael Lasar
Matawan, NJ

Was that reference added through the author having a bet with someone? It seemed an incredibly random line to include in an article about duct tape…


I have emailed the author asking about how she came to make this comment in the article. I’ll report back any response.

Raphael Lasar
Matawan, NJ

Congratulations on making your 1000th post!

uni57 (Dave)

Ms Kim responded without any comment but did send the following article.

The text is somewhat different than the online version which is at:

Raphael Lasar
Matawan, NJ

The hills are alive with the sound of screaming
Get out
Thursday, 07/18/2002-- Northwest Weekend-- Page G6 (IMAGES)
By Colleen Pohlig,
Seattle Times Eastside bureau

Carnation - [b]One of the first things a young mountain unicyclist learns -
after finding that duct tape not only patches tires but arm gashes, too

  • is that Mom needn’t know the details.[/b]

Mountain unicycling - or MUni, as it’s called - is burliness and finesse
and stamina all rolled into one tight, newborn sport. It’s mountain
biking, on one wheel. No gears. No handlebars. No brakes. And if you
don’t finish a trail with bloody knees or chafed elbows, you’re not
riding hard enough.

Falling is to be expected, tears are definitely not. MUni, a baby of a
sport at about 5 years old, is an extreme version of unicycling that has
its roots in the Northwest. Perhaps the highest concentration of young
MUni cyclists (ages 7-17) resides in the little town of North Bend, the
birthplace of the North Bend Panther Pride Demo Team. North Bend
Elementary P.E. teacher Alan Tepper started a unicycling class there 20
years ago.

It grew to today’s competitive demo team of more than 100 students (ages

Beginning next Thursday, Tepper’s team will host the 2002 North American
and world unicycling championships. More than 700 unicyclists of all
ages and levels are expected to roll into North Bend for both events,
and mountain unicycling will be a highlight. The larger event will be
the 11th International Unicycling Convention and World Championships,
which runs from July 25 to Aug. 2, with more than 500 riders from 14

The last such competition was in Beijing.

The world competition culminates Aug. 2 with nine hours of hard-core
mountain unicycling events at Snoqualmie Pass - an opportunity to get a
close-up look at uphill, downhill and cross-country races in a sport
many people never imagined.

Also that day, spectators can see six hours of trials unicycling, in
which riders have to jump or ride over rocks, logs and cable reels on a
flat obstacle course with the least falls.

Viewers can watch from the base of the chairlift, near the Summit Hiking
and Biking Center, or ride the lift up for a fee and watch from the top.

More than 60 riders on Tepper’s demo team will compete in the North
American event, and nearly 50 in the world event. About a dozen MUni
cyclists will compete at the world event.

Riders at the championships can compete in three other unicycling
events: artistic, which is like watching ice-skating on one wheel; track
and field, which includes racing, high jumping, long jumping and
juggling; and team sports, basketball and hockey.

A fast-growing sport

Trials and mountain unicycling are the fastest-growing genres in
unicycling. It’s easy to see why - that is, once I finally catch up with
a dozen one-wheeled trail terrors on a recent Monday. But I hear them
first, laughter instead of the groans I was expecting as they’re
hurtling to the ground. It seems in this sport they fall so much on the
steep and muddy off-road terrain that moaning could become repetitive.

We’re high above Carnation in MacDonald Memorial Park on a muddy
single-track trail and I struggle - yes, on a two-wheeled mountain bike

  • to keep up with them. They’re fast, fearless and, did I say fast?

It may have something to do with the grueling pace coach Roger Galloway
sets for the pack. Barking out from the front - “go, go, go” - he
reminds them of the speed they’ll have to maintain at the world
championships when they race against riders twice their age and skill

MUni isn’t old or sophisticated enough to break its competitors into
categories, which tends to make the competitions even more cutthroat. As
for speed, unicycles are more maneuverable than bicycles and can slip
around tight turns. Riders can use trees for balance when their speed

The many falls don’t phase these riders. They just hop back on the seat
and keep rolling, legs pumping and arms slightly splayed for balance.

Even tiny, 10-year-old Trey Botten doesn’t expect sympathy as he smacks
the trail and body-hops in the dirt. New to unicycling just last year
and brand new to MUni this year, he is a trouper, and talented.

“On the downhills and drop-offs I get kind of freaked out, but this is
fun for me,” he said. “I saw Zach and Nik doing jumps last year and I
wanted to be them. Zach’s my inspiration.” Zach Vaughn and Nik Caffroy,
both 14 and some of the longest-standing members on the demo team, are
idolized by many of the young riders.

They also look up to Katy Lord, 16, who has been on the team the
longest. Though she denies it, she’s also the best female MUni cyclist
on the team, says another coach, David Maxfield.

She’s much stronger in the artistic events, she says. “I don’t have much
endurance at this,” she says, pounding down an energy bar on a
three-minute break. “My legs start to feel like jelly and then I fall
because I have no control.” You’d never know it, though. After the
break, she tears through the thick mud, hops a drainage ditch and rips
down the trail, just trailing Zach and Nik.

Winning at all costs

That’s the other cool thing about MUni, says Maxfield: equal
participation between boys and girls. “It’s the extreme that appeals to
both,” he said. “My challenge is not finding kids who are competitive
and want to win, but who want to win at all costs. These guys go all
out.” Maxfield, a management consultant who commutes once a week from
Bainbridge Island, says he tries to teach them control. If they’re fast
but always falling, that’s not so good.

The MUni riders can thank Maxfield for more than coaching. Last year, he
won a $3,500 prize in an essay competition for a piece he wrote on how
unicycling balances mind and body. He knew of Tepper’s team and knew
they lacked off-road unicycles. gave the team 20 percent
off gear and Maxfield was able to donate eight mountain unicycles and
two trials unicycles.

He says Zach, Nik and Katy have a shot at placing high in the world MUni
events, even though they’ll have stiff competition from some favored
Canadian and Chinese riders.

Looking at all three on this day, they are strong, fast and - most
important - having fun. They hop logs, rip down steep slopes, and whoop
and holler the whole way down.

Finally, at the end of the trail, the riders, one by one, collapse.
They’re tired and sweaty, and some are pretty banged up.

But when 10-year-old Jake Beck finishes, he bee-lines for Zach. With a
wide grin, he extends his arm, blood dripping from a 3-inch-long slash.

“Nice, another battle scar,” Zach tells him, as Zach, Nik and Katy
launch into a comparison of their past broken ankles, sprained wrists
and mild concussions.

Meanwhile, Jake pulls a half-used roll of duct tape from his muddy
backpack and rips a silver slab of it around his wound. “It’s good for
all kinds of stuff,” he says.

Once down at the parking lot, Stacy Van Vleck, mother of 11-year-old
MUni rider Brandon, breathes a sigh of relief as she counts the 12th and
last rider. She says she’s happy to help taxi them from trail to trail,
but doesn’t dare watch what they do once they leave the parking lot.

“I think it’s for the best,” she says, half-smiling as she shoos them
off to the park bathroom to scrub off the mud.

Colleen Pohlig: 206-515-5655 or

There is a video clip in the gallery about Alan Tepper.

It’s the one with the description “Evening Magazine TV spot…”

uni57 (Dave)