Q: How can I prepare myself and my family for a natural disaster?

A: You are already heading in the right direction simply by asking questions about emergency preparedness. Step one is having a plan. Talk with your family about what you need to do in the event of a natural disaster, including where to go or who to contact. Make sure you talk to your children about what they should do if they are alone or with friends at the time of a natural disaster.

The second step is making sure you have the supplies needed to sustain yourself and your family after a natural disaster. Some items you want to have on hand to keep you, your family and your community prepared would be non-perishable, high energy foods that require no refrigeration or preparation, water and survival items (first aid kit, batteries, flashlight and radio). You want to have at least seven days of food and water for each member of your family, as well as any medicine or medication that will be needed. The city of Santa Monica police and fire departments have teamed up with the American Red Cross of Santa Monica to encourage the entire community to make Santa Monica the most emergency prepared city in the county. “I’ve Got 7” is a program developed by the Santa Monica Fire Department to encourage every member of this community to keep at least seven days of supplies on hand in case of an emergency so we can take care of ourselves and our families until emergency services are available to assist. For more information on the Santa Monica “I’ve Got 7” pledge, please visit www.ivegot7.com, the Santa Monica Fire Department Web site at www.santamonicafire.org or the Red Cross of Santa Monica’s Web site at www.redcrossofsantamonica.org.

Q: What is a Neighborhood Watch Program?

A: The Neighborhood Watch Program is a crime prevention program which enlists the active participation of citizens in cooperation with the Santa Monica Police Department to reduce crime in their communities. Neighborhood Watch involves getting to know each other and working together in a program of mutual assistance. Citizens are trained to recognize and report suspicious activities in their neighborhoods. You will receive information on home security and much more to make your neighborhood a safer place to live. The Santa Monica Police Department has made it easy for you to set up a Neighborhood Watch Program in your neighborhood by having eight neighborhood resource officers and four crime prevention coordinators to assist you in the development and maintenance of your program. These folks are able to provide training, offer assistance with security issues and attend Neighborhood Watch meetings. You can contact your neighborhood resource officer and crime prevention coordinator by visiting the Santa Monica Police Department Web site at www.santamonicapd.org.

Door-to-door magazine subscriptions

Every year, the Santa Monica Police Department responds to numerous calls regarding door-to-door magazine solicitors. There are many legitimate organizations that solicit door-to-door, either to sell products and services or to promote a religious, political or charitable cause. However, there are also a growing number of individuals who illegally solicit with the purpose of committing fraud or to see if the house is unoccupied for the purpose of committing a crime.

So when someone knocks at your door, ask the person to produce the required license before he/she begins a sales pitch. Be aware that your average con-artist will have a thousand reasons for why he/she has no license, but there is no legal reason to be without one. And don’t forget, if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is!

The Santa Monica Municipal Code states that every person engaged in soliciting, canvassing, taking orders or peddling of goods, wares, merchandise or services shall pay a license fee in accordance with Section 6.32.040. No solicitation or peddling shall be conducted at any place of residence in the city where any sign prohibiting trespassing or solicitation has been posted or displayed. If the sign posted or displayed limits the hours of trespassing or solicitation, no solicitation or peddling shall be conducted at any place of residence in the city during the time period posted or displayed (6.32.010).

In addition to the municipal code on solicitation, the following are general guidelines that legitimate solicitors should follow:

• A solicitor should not knock on the door or ring the doorbell for the purpose of selling a product or service if the property is posted with a “No Solicitors” sign.

• A solicitor must leave when asked by the homeowner or apartment dweller.

• A solicitor cannot make any statements that misrepresent the activity for which they have been authorized by their permit to solicit.

A person might be a fraudulent solicitor if he/she:

• Is out of compliance with the municipal code;

• Behaves aggressively, acts threateningly or tries to make you feel guilty for not wanting to buy what he/she is selling;

• Pressures you for an immediate decision and demands cash only;

• Refuses to supply paperwork to substantiate what he/she claims to be selling or to give a contact phone number and address for whom they claim to work;

• Asks for bank account or Social Security numbers;

• Attempts to make entry into your home (for example, by jiggling the door knob if no one answers);

• Tries to peer into your home through an open door or window to look for valuables in plain sight.

If you suspect that a solicitor is not legitimate, please contact the Santa Monica Police Department at (310) 458-8491 or by dialing 911.

Neighborhood Resource Officer Joseph Cortez of Beat 4 (Montana Avenue to Interstate 10, 20th Street to Ocean Avenue) prepared this column. He can be reached at (424) 200-0684 or via e-mail at joseph.cortez@smgov.net.

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