DEAR ABBY: Years ago, I remember reading about some Please Call Police banners you mentioned in your column. Do you know if they are still available? I am 90 years old, live alone and I can't walk very well. I live in a house on a city block with quite a few vacant lots.
My phone went out, and I had no way to call for help. I turned my U.S. flag upside down because I had read that it's a distress signal that everyone can understand -- but nobody stopped. Finally, I saw two girls walking by. I called out to them and asked them to please go to the police and call about my telephone. Abby, I was alone without a phone for 30 days!
I would like to order a set of those banners for my window in case of another emergency, and I'd also like a set for my daughter who travels alone. Do you know how I can order them? -- CLOSE CALL IN VIRGINIA
DEAR CLOSE CALL: Thirty days isolated in a house with no means of communication? Your letter gave me chills. Yes, the Please Call Police banners are still available. Other readers have written me to say they have been a literal lifesaver in case of an emergency.
I keep two banners in the glove compartment of my car -- one for the windshield and another for the rear window. Although most people have cell phones these days, invariably there are "dead spots" where the phone doesn't work, and it's better to be safe than sorry.
The Please Call Police banners make ideal stocking stuffers and provide a safety measure for people to give their loved ones, but they also assist the Westside Center for Independent Living (WCIL), a nonprofit organization that helps people with disabilities to live more independent lives. They make thoughtful, caring gifts for very little money for Thanksgiving and other holidays, providing security and safety to commuters who travel in good or bad weather.
This year, in addition to the banners, WCIL is offering emergency blankets made of silver-colored Mylar. They weigh 2 ounces, and also fit easily into a glove compartment, backpack -- even a purse. Events over the last few years have repeatedly emphasized the need for emergency preparedness, and the blankets -- in addition to the banners -- would be attention-getting reflective devices if someone is lost or trapped and unable to call out.
The banners and the blankets can be purchased by writing to WCIL. To order, send check or money order (U.S. funds only, please) to: WCIL Banners or Blankets, P.O. Box 92501, Los Angeles, CA 90009. You will receive one banner or one blanket for a $5 contribution and each additional blanket or banner for a $4 contribution. (Please include $1 per total order for postage and handling.) For more information and secure ordering online, visit � HYPERLINK "http://www.wcil.org" ��www.wcil.org� and click on the "Police Banners" or "Emergency Blankets" link. Allow four to six weeks for delivery.