With the economy sinking and unemployment rising, a lot of people are wondering what they'd do if they lost their jobs.

When you lose your job there's a temptation to succumb to panic and unproductive thrashing around. You may think that because some employer felt you had to go, there's something wrong with you. Chances are, there's nothing wrong with you -- there's something wrong with the system.

To find out how to cope with the bad news of being laid off or fired, I talked to one of the pros in the hiring-firing business. He's Bridgeford Hunt, president of the Hunt Company, a management consulting firm specializing in finding qualified people for employers to hire. He knows what works, and what doesn't work when you're out pounding the pavements looking for a job.

"The first thing you have to do is talk to your spouse or your closest friend or family member," says Hunt, adding that "you should include the children in your emergency planning session if they're old enough to understand."

Bringing the family in on crisis planning meetings "can do wonders for your morale," says Hunt and "eventually it can bring a family much closer together -- there's a 'let's-all-pitch-in' atmosphere."

The next step is to start making a detailed plan. List all your skills -- all the things you really have to offer an employer. For help on this, study some of the good books on the subject.

Hunt likes "How to Get a Better Job Quicker," by Richard Payne (Signet paperback) and I like "Who's Hiring Who," by Richard Lathrop (Ten Speed Press paperback). And, for more advanced job seekers, Richard Bolles' "What Color Is Your Parachute" (Ten Speed Press paperback) has become the bible.

Lathrop's book has some good samples of how to write a "qualifications brief" instead of the stereotyped, drudge resume. You show what skills you have and how they can be put to work helping your next employer make money, save money or solve problems. It's a gung-ho attitude of "what I can do for you," not "what can you do for me?"

"Before you go to any interviews at places where you would really like to work," says Hunt, "try two or three places you're not interested in," to use as shakedown cruises to polish your interviewing techniques and build some confidence. Get some easy interviews and use them as dress rehearsals.

And when you go out to interview, Hunt recommends, "be neat and clean -- underline that word clean." There's nothing worse than to show up for an interview looking unkempt.

Be nicely dressed but don't overdo it or underdo it. To maintain that neat and clean, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed look, says Hunt, "don't schedule more than one interview in the morning and on in the afternoon . . . Put all you've got into those."

If you feel unkempt or frazzled, Hunt advises, "arrive at your interview a little ahead of time, ask the receptionist or whomever where the bathroom is, and go in and do a quick job on your hair, face and overall appearance."

Feel fresh and psyched up. "It comes through in the interview," Hunt explains. And, after your interviews are over for the day, go home and review what happened. Send out letters to the people who took the time to talk to you. If they didn't offer a job, no matter. Your letter wil be so unusual (few job seekers ever think it's important), Hunt says, "You might be right back in contention for the next opening."

Q. We are considering putting insulation into our walls to save money on heating bills. Foam seemed to be the best for walls but we heard it might be dangerous because of gasses it emits under certain conditions. What about cellulose? Can we put it into the walls ourselves? Is there any fire hazard involved?

A. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has received a number of complaints from homeowners who have had urea formaldehyde (UF) foam insulation installed. Apparently, in some cases, formaldehyde gas is released and this can cause all sorts of symptoms ranging from eye and skin irritation to breathing difficulties and nausea.

The commission is in the process of writing a regulation which will require installers to include information that spells out the potential dangers of formaldehyde foam.

As for cellulose, it can be used in walls but it's very tricky to install correctly. A contractor should do the job -- and do it carefully. Any insulation which is installed properly will not pose a fire hazard.

But the job must be done right. For example, insulation should not be installed next to electrical fixtures or around wiring. You can get heat build up this way.