After the devastating quake and tsunami hit Japan last Friday, a request for aid was received by the Los Angeles County Fire Department Technical Services Division – California Task Force 2, who had just returned from helping in rescue and recovery efforts in Christchurch, New Zealand.
A 70-member team was assembled and is now in country, including six firefighter/personnel from our area (one is assigned to La Crescenta station, the other five are from the Santa Clarita Valley). The heavy rescue group includes paramedics, physicians and a swift water rescue team. You can follow them at http://fire.lacounty.gov/ and on Twitter @LACoFDTSD
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Meanwhile, many members of the public want to help too. Experts indicate that the best donation is money so that supplies can be purchased close to the affected areas. This saves on transportation costs and logistics. Unfortunately, while many people are extending a helping hand, criminals use the opportunity to cheat and steal from those who are trying to help those in need.
The following three sections will help you make a better decision on how to provide help to others while protecting yourself, if you decide to assist:
1. Protect yourself from fraud. The Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, has provided a “charity checklist” to advise consumers about donating wisely to charities. If you are asked to contribute to a charity, you should:
a. Ask for the name of the charity if the telemarketer does not provide it promptly;
b. Ask what percentage of your donation will support the cause described in the solicitation;
c. Verify that the charity has authorized the solicitation;
d. Do not provide any credit card or bank information until you have reviewed all information from the charity and made the decision to donate;
e. Ask for a receipt showing the amount of the contribution and stating that it is tax deductible; and
f. Avoid cash gifts. For security and tax record purposes, it’s best to pay by check – made payable to the beneficiary, not the solicitor.
The FTC works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or get free information on consumer issues, visit www.ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. Watch a new video, How to File a Complaint, at ftc.gov/video to learn more.
The FTC enters consumer complaints into the Consumer Sentinel Network, a secure online database and investigative tool used by more than 1,800 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
The State of California Department of Justice, Office of the California Attorney General, regulates charities and the professional fundraisers who solicit on their behalf. The purpose of this oversight is to protect charitable assets for their intended use and ensure that the charitable donations contributed by Californians are not misapplied and squandered through fraud or other means. The main elements of the Attorney General´s regulatory program are found as the following link: http://oag.ca.gov/charities
Charity Research Tool
A searchable database of the information returns that charities file annually with the IRS is available on the Attorney General´s website. The database allows donors to research a charity before making a decision to give: http://oag.ca.gov/charities/charity-research-tool#Location:Default
2. What and where to donate
If you are looking for a list of non profit charities that are working with the Japanese government, visit the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, at
In response to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is dispatching a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) and has mobilized its partners, the Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Team and the Los Angeles County Search and Rescue Team. Each USAR team will be composed of approximately 72 personnel, search and rescue canines and approximately 75 tons of rescue equipment. The USAR teams will be accompanied by USAID disaster experts who will assist with assessments of the situation.
3. How you can help
Following a major disaster, most relief organizations and emergency responder agencies are extremely busy, even if they are outside the affected area. Organizations can become overwhelmed with too many volunteers. The best time to sign-up to volunteer is during a non-disaster time. This allows you to train with a disaster relief organization to be ready when the next emergency strikes.
To find a training or volunteer opportunity go to www.CaliforniaVolunteers.org and enter your zip code, select “Public Safety and Disaster Preparedness” from the pull down menu. You will receive a list of potential opportunities in your area, such as joining a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).
For more information about fraud, becoming a volunteer, and USAID’s emergency humanitarian assistance programs, please visit the following websites: