Kari Garcia strives to keep us all safe

| July 29, 2020 | 0 Comments


You will survive. Whether it’s an earthquake, a robbery or some other crisis, Kari Garcia wants you to know there are tools and neighbors to help and there are all sorts of ways to be prepared.

Oh, and the next big earthquake, it’s not biding its time waiting for a vaccine against the coronavirus.

“The earthquake actually could hit at any time,” warns Garcia, head of the Safety Committee and a Vice President of the Miracle Mile Residential Association (MMRA).

Thoughts of an impending disaster keep the trained nurse and mother of four up at night.

“If you were worried about toilet paper [during the COVID-19 crisis] you might want to worry about an earthquake and be prepared with a few supplies…

“If it doesn’t happen, you’ll feel safer for knowing you are ready.”

The Marin County native has never been one to shy away from a crisis. After she graduated from UC San Francisco, she worked in intensive care units at several hospitals — St. John’s in Santa Monica, Good Samaritan, and Olympia Medical Center — before staying home to raise her children, ages 18-26.

Garcia moved here 28 years ago after marrying into a longtime Miracle Mile family and into a house on a street where her husband Art Garcia grew up. She enjoys the close proximity to museums and the Mile’s storied architecture and family-friendly streets.

“We’re very old-fashioned. We’ve lived a house away from my in-laws. We’ve just loved it here.”

Her father-in-law has since died, and Kari helps care for Art’s mother. His parents, who were once head of housekeeping for Olympia, assisted when the children were growing up.

She extends that sense of interconnectedness to her neighbors. The “Four Corners” — Miracle Mile, Park La Brea, La Brea Hancock and Sycamore Square — share resources and communication, which “makes for a stronger society,” says Garcia.

Armed with a detailed plan, the four neighborhood groups share a list of volunteers equipped with two-way radios and a pre-determined community meeting place in a disaster.

Garcia encourages residents to have available: water, food and first aid, as well as other supplies listed on the City of Los Angeles Emergency Management Dept. RYLAN (Ready Your LA Neighborhood) website.

Garcia also participates in the Los Angeles Fire Dept.’s CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) program.

She was set to bring the community up to date on disaster preparedness at the annual MMRA meeting in March. It was cancelled because of the novel coronavirus.

Then, the Black Lives Matter protests and local looting followed.

While the Miracle Mile was not hard hit, its Neighborhood Watch program was still credited with keeping the lines of communication open and soothing rattled nerves.

Kari reignited the sleepy Neighborhood Watch program two years ago after a spate of burglaries in her neighborhood and more serious incidents. In one, a repeat offender — an opioid schizophrenic — had compromised the alarm system and turned the power off at her home in an attempt to break in while she was inside.

The incident kick-started Garcia into action.

Today, she coordinates the Mile’s 30 block captains. She simplified the city Neighborhood Watch plan into a three-tier approach: harden your target, utilize the LAPD and a dedicated private patrol, and be active in your Neighborhood Watch.

She’s a big fan of Wilshire Division’s new Capt. Shannon Paulson (“the most effective captain we’ve seen”), as well as the senior lead and other officers in the division.

While there is room for improvement in police departments everywhere, for increased justice and for “reform,” Garcia says that — to get there — “we need to participate with them and have an open dialogue…

“That’s how it works with my family, and that’s how it works in my neighborhood and on my block, and that’s how it should work with the LAPD.

“People need to be part of their community. They need to know what’s going on with their community police.”

She encourages residents to join her at Wilshire Division meetings held the third Thursday of the month at 7 p.m., these days on Zoom. She represents the Miracle Mile on the board of the local LAPD C-PAB (Community Police Advisory Board).

After tackling the Neighborhood Watch program, Garcia turned her attention to security issues on the commercial and retail side of her community. She founded the Miracle Mile Business Watch last year after reports of crime had unsettled shopkeepers.

The program has grown to include 35 businesses from a small hair salon to a major bank. The coronavirus has curbed the program’s growth, but its flow of communication continues with a group text system that provided relief up and down Wilshire during the recent BLM protests.

Hesitant to shine a spotlight on herself, Kari agreed to this interview after her husband convinced her it might motivate some to join her cause.

“I hope the article motivates each reader of the Larchmont Chronicle to organize their block this week, complete the RYLAN training by September, and to be part of the CERT Radio Net by October! At the very least — they should make sure there is an email roster for their block!”

A tall order? Maybe, but the Mile couldn’t have a better role model.

Garcia also gives Power Points and presentations in backyards and homes, wherever folks want to meet and talk about Neighborhood Watch, emergency preparedness and making life even better in her beloved Miracle Mile. And, she does this for adjacent neighborhoods as well.

“[Neighborhood Watch] really has proven to be effective… It allows us to stay safe, stay informed,” said Kari.

To learn more, visit: tinyurl.com/y2evu74o Also: tinyurl.com/yyklg29b

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Category: People

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