Days after a string of unseasonal tornadoes thrashed southern Indiana, from Feb. 29 through March 3, the Indiana Department of Homeland Security began a robust disaster response campaign.
The IDHS distributed its first of many recovery newsletters on March 5 for Indiana residents. The daily newsletter, “Rebuilding: A Guide for Disaster Survivors,” headlined information that included road closures and rebuilding permit policies. It also included a list and schedule of organizations available at the state’s “one-stop shop” mobile operation of recovery staff and services.
Sellersburg, Ind., March 28, 2012 -- A picture of the sign outside a disaster recovery center following the presidential declaration for Indiana.
The newsletter was emailed and faxed to businesses, libraries, faith-based groups and other community organizations in storm-impacted areas. Volunteers distributed the one-page publication to affected residents. Requests for the newsletter poured in, and within a few days the initial distribution of 200 soared to 1,500.
“The newsletter was an idea that became an effective tool,” said Joe Wainscott, IDHS executive director. “It’s an instrument we will use as we continue to seek better and more efficient ways to help disaster survivors.”
The newsletter included a schedule of traveling disaster recovery center stops, an operation the state launched on March 13. At every stop, representatives from the American Red Cross, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, the Indiana State Department of Health and other essential services agencies met face-to-face with individuals recovering from the severe storms.
At the one-stop shop in Sellersburg, the state of Indiana provided laptop computers for storm-impacted residents to use to access recovery information and register for FEMA assistance. Through March 21, state representatives worked alongside federal disaster recovery specialists at the Sellersburg shop. Single day one-stop shops were also set up. One was established in New Pekin on March 14, and another in Holton on March 24.
Sellersburg, Ind., March 14, 2012 -- Inside the state’s “one-stop shop” mobile operation of recovery staff and services.
Hoosiers met face-to-face with representatives of essential state and nonprofit agencies to discuss different resources, including:
- American Red Cross – Basic necessities and essential items.
- Bureau of Motor Vehicles – Replacement driver’s licenses, identification cards and permits were provided at no charge to customers impacted by the disaster. Other services included title replacement, registrations and license plates.
- Department of Insurance – Interpretation of insurance policies, information on lost or damaged policies, guidance on obtaining copies of insurance policies, and car insurance assistance.
- Department of Workforce Development – Application for state unemployment benefits.
- Indiana Family and Social Services Administration – Replacement food stamps for families impacted by the disaster who were then receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP-food stamps) benefits; counseling services.
- Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority – List of emergency shelters, temporary housing and rental assistance.
- Indiana State Department of Health – Vaccination information, including tetanus shots; clean-up advice; access and information to vital records, including birth and death certificates.
- The Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives – Assistance in connecting disaster victims with resources provided by community organizations.
The newsletter, tools and services the state of Indiana provided went a long way in setting storm-impacted communities on the road to recovery.
By all accounts, by the time FEMA arrived in Indiana, the storm recovery operation already set into motion by the state of Indiana was moving along in a robust fashion.. Responding with such effective tools as the newsletter and one-stop shops gave storm-impacted Indiana residents a head start on the road to storm recovery.