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Beware of strangers offering home repairs

"Now that the earthquake madness had settled down, the Port Orchard Police Department is warning residents to beware of strangers offering home repairs.Police are also asking for help to make sure when another natural disaster hits, emergency personnel are able to respond.In the moments immediately following a natural disaster like the Feb. 28 earthquake, people immediately want to phone family members to ask if everything's all right before they jump in their cars and leave work.But that's not always the best idea, according to Port Orchard Police Chief Alan Townsend. With people tying up phone lines and filling the roads, it's hard for police and fire departments to take calls and respond to emergencies. In a natural disaster, unless they need emergency medical assistance, (people should) try and refrain from using the phone, Townsend said. What most people found in this case was the phones were tied up, not only for emergencies, but for everyone.He recommended designating a close friend or relative who lives outside the state as a point of contact following an emergency. Often, it's easier to phone out-of-state than in-state, and spares snarling up local lines. That said, Unless it's a dire emergency, like a fire or a gas leak, it's better to stay off the phone, Townsend said.In addition, people should use 911 only for an emergency; people should not call 911 to ask for information about the disaster.Another hurdle for emergency crews Feb. 28 was the sudden onslaught of traffic created when everyone left work. Some of that can't be avoided, but maybe consider alternate routes, Townsend said. If you don't have to get out, sometimes it's better not to.Now that the earthquake is over and the damage is done, Townsend is warning Port Orchard residents against potentially predatory odd-jobs workers who offer to do repairs.You want to watch out for people from out-of-state, he said. Scammers will come in, ask for money up front and disappear. Unfortunately, there are people who prey on people who've just had a tragedy.He recommended hiring locally and holding off on projects that don't require immediate attention until someone trustworthy can be found. In these types of situations, take the time to hire locally. Do your homework; know who you're hiring, especially in this instance because nothing is so damaged that it can't wait. Be very leary of people who come to your door. Go find your own (repair workers), he said. It might be better to wait. And don't pay up front. "

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