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Sandy Update 5: The Next Step After You Register for Disaster Assistance

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Hoboken, N.J., Nov. 1, 2012 -- FEMA Inspector Richard Martin inspects a basement apartment in Hoboken two days after the residents applied for FEMA assistance. FEMA is working with many partners and organizations to provide assistance to residents affected by Hurricane Sandy.

Hoboken, N.J., Nov. 1, 2012 -- FEMA Inspector Richard Martin inspects a basement apartment in Hoboken two days after the residents applied for FEMA assistance. FEMA is working with many partners and organizations to provide assistance to residents affected by Hurricane Sandy.

We understand the mixed range of emotions survivors may be experiencing after going through a catastrophic and life changing disaster.  Many people are returning home to find that everything they’ve ever known is completely destroyed.  During these difficult times, it’s hard to even process everything that has occurred over the past several days, let alone think about the next steps -- but we’re here to help you through the disaster registration process and make it as easy as possible.

If you’re a survivor in one of the declared counties you should call to apply for federal assistance.  If you have access to the Internet, you can apply online and on your mobile device too.  If you don’t have access to the Internet, please call 1-800-621-FEMA(3362) TTY 1-800-462-7585.  Our online application is an easier and faster way to apply for assistance, visit at www.disasterassistance.gov to complete your application. You should also be aware that FEMA often opens Disaster Recovery Centers  in disaster areas, once they are established in your area, you can visit the location to speak to someone in person about available disaster programs.

Once you’ve applied for federal assistance, here’s what you can expect next:

  1. Applicants who register with FEMA will be given a personal application number. This number will be used to provide later to a FEMA Housing Inspector. So it’s important that you write this number down, and keep it secure and handy for future use.
  2.  A FEMA Housing Inspector will contact you to make an appointment to visit your property within 14 days after you apply. The inspector will assess disaster related damage for your real and personal property.

    Important notes:
  • There is no fee for the inspection.
  • Inspectors are contractors, not FEMA employees, but your inspector will have picture identification.
  • It is important to understand that you or someone 18 years of age who lived in the household prior to the disaster must be present for your scheduled appointment. This inspection generally takes 30-40 minutes but can be shorter, and consists of a general inspection of damaged areas of your home and a review of your records.It’s also important to understand what the inspector will be asking of you. 

    The inspector will ask to see:
  • Picture Identification
  • Proof of Ownership/Occupancy of damaged residence (Structural Insurance, Tax Bill, Mortgage Payment Book/Utility Bill)
  • Insurance documents: Home and/or Auto (Structural Insurance/Auto Declaration Sheet)
  • List of household occupants living in residence at time of disaster
  • All disaster related damages to both real and personal property
  1. Once the inspection process is complete, your case will be reviewed by FEMA and you will receive a letter, or email if you signed up for E-Correspondence, outlining the decision.
  2. If you qualify for a FEMA grant, FEMA will send you a check by mail or deposit it directly into your bank account. You will also receive a letter describing how you are to use the money.  You should only use the money given to you as explained in the letter and save receipts on how you spent the money.
  3. If you do not qualify for a FEMA grant, you will receive a letter explaining why you were turned down and will be given a chance to appeal the decision. Your appeal rights will be described in this letter. Appeals must be in writing and mailed within 60 days of FEMA’s decision.
  4. If you’re referred to the Small Business Administration (SBA), you will receive a SBA application. The application must be completed and returned in order to be considered for a loan as well as certain types of grant assistance. SBA representatives are available to help you with the application at local Disaster Recovery Centers. Completing and returning the loan application does not mean that you must accept the loan.

As with all disasters, FEMA is just part of the team that supports disaster response and recovery efforts.  That team is comprised of tribal, territorial, state, and local governments, faith-based and community organizations as well as the private sector and voluntary organizations.  Together we are working to help survivors through this difficult time in their lives. 

If you know someone who lives in an eligible county and has suffered damages from Hurricane Sandy or if you have suffered damages yourself, we encourage you to register for federal disaster assistance as soon as possible.  The sooner you apply, the faster you will receive a reply and can move forward in the recovery process. 

And if you were not affected by Hurricane Sandy but know survivors, please help us spread the message and encourage them to apply for assistance. 

Here are some other ways everyone can help Hurricane Sandy survivors:

  • Cash is the most efficient method of donating – Cash offers voluntary agencies the most flexibility in obtaining the most-needed resources and pumps money into the local economy to help businesses recover.

Also, please review our page with info on volunteering and donating responsibly.

We are committed in continuing to provide support to the governors, tribal leaders and communities impacted by Hurricane Sandy.  As response efforts continue, FEMA and our federal partners have been in close contact with emergency officials to assess the unmet needs of survivors. Visit our Hurricane Sandy page for updates and other resources related to response and recovery efforts.

Getting Gas Pumps Flowing

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We know some residents impacted by Hurricane Sandy are experiencing long lines at gas stations and some states are facing fuel shortages.  At FEMA, and across the federal government, we recognize this problem and we are taking immediate steps to address this in three primary ways.

First, we are working to increase fuel supply so that resources are getting to impacted areas.  Hurricane Sandy disrupted the normal flow of fuel by preventing ships from entering vital ports in the Northeast and creating navigation hazards.                                  

This morning, Secretary Napolitano issued a temporary, blanket waiver of the Jones Act to immediately allow additional oil tankers coming from the Gulf of Mexico to enter Northeastern ports. This will provide more fuel to the region.  The Coast Guard also has re-opened the port of New York to all tug and barge traffic carrying petroleum products.  And Customs and Border Protection are working to ensure air and sea ports in the affected areas are fully staffed and ready to receive passengers and cargo as they return to operation.  In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency has exercised its authority under the Clean Air Act to temporarily waive certain federal gasoline requirements for gas sold and distributed in more than a dozen states.  This waiver will help ensure an adequate supply of fuels in the impacted states.

Second, we are coordinating with states and the private sector to accelerate the distribution of fuel to retail locations.  Due to the storm, some refineries and fuel facilities had to be taken off-line and others reduced operations. The Department of Energy is working with industry partners to ensure that the infrastructure to deliver petroleum is up and running to meet fuel demands.  

Normal operations have already resumed at two major refineries in Delaware and New Jersey, and pipeline companies have restored services to six pipelines servicing New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and north to Maine.  In short, we are working with companies and refineries and infrastructure owners to bring facilities back on line, increase production, and get more fuel flowing.

Finally, we are partnering with major utilities and the private sector to restore power so that gas stations that do have fuel in their tanks are able to get the pumps working again. President Obama has established a national power restoration working group to cut through the red tape, increase federal, state, tribal, local and private sector coordination and restore power to people as quickly as possible. 

Yesterday more than 60 power restoration vehicles and crews from private utility companies were airlifted from California to New York to assist with restoration.  The federal government also has provided hundreds of generators to help critical infrastructure sites and fuel stations operate until full power is restored.  Fuel points of distribution locations also are being identified and will be established in hard hit areas to accelerate fuel distribution.

It will take some time for our nation’s fuel supply chain to get back to full capacity.  But we are taking immediate steps in the short term to address the problem and fuel is now flowing into impacted areas.

Keeping Children Safe in Sandy’s Wake

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(The views expressed by Ms. Chung do not necessarily represent the official views of the United States, the Department of Homeland Security, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA does not endorse any non-government organizations, entities, or services.)

Although Sandy has passed, for millions in states along the east coast there are still many hazards. It is important to take steps to protect children, as they are especially vulnerable to the environmental hazards that may be present. Here are some tips parents should keep in mind:

Flood Water Safety

  • Parents or other caregivers should directly supervise children - this prevents them from playing in or around floodwaters. It doesn't take long and it doesn't take much water for children to drown.
  • Watch for live wires or power sources - electricity from streetlights and downed power lines may be active and may cause a deadly shock through contact with standing water or direct contact with live lines.
  • Keep children from playing around drainage ditches, storm drains, river channels, or any place with moving/standing water - children can fall in, get stuck, or drown.
  • Be aware of what’s in the water - standing or flood waters can be contaminated and cause children to become sick. Playing in water could also result in being bitten by snakes, rodents or other wildlife.

Home Safety

  • Lock the door - In preparation for the storm, many people filled bathtubs and buckets with water to use for drinking or washing. If this is the case, keep everything in one room and lock it away from young children, as they can drown quickly in very small amounts of water.
  • Be mindful when using candles or heat sources - Make sure to watch small children around lit candles, and don’t forget to blow them out when leaving the room. Supervise children directly when there are portable grills or sources of heat or fire.
  • Turn off vehicles - In order to recharge cell phones and other electronics, people may leave their cars running. Be sure children don’t climb or play in the car. Don’t leave vehicles running inside garages or in any closed area where carbon monoxide can collect.
  • Leave it out in the open - Portable generators are useful when temporary or remote electric power is needed, but they can be hazardous. The primary hazards to avoid when using them are carbon monoxide poisoning, electric shock or electrocution, and fire. For tips on using generators safely, visit the U.S. Fire Administration website.

Addressing the Emotional Impacts from Sandy

Sandy was very frightening for many adults, so imagine how scary the storm was for children who experienced it firsthand, or even those who simply watched it on television. For kids, no amount of time or statistics really explains the weather event that just occurred or provides comfort in its wake. They may have lost pets, favorite toys, or other cherished treasures, and they may not understand why parents must dispose of their contaminated belongings during the clean-up process.

Here are some helpful tips to support children in recovering and coping with the situation:

  • Limit TV and other media coverage of the storm and its impact (such as Internet, social media, and radio interviews of victims) - Listening to stories about the impact of disasters can cause further distress to children and adults. Realize that children should not be exposed to the same amount and level of media coverage being viewed by adults.
  • Keep to a routine - Help your children feel they still have a sense of structure, making them feel more at ease or provide a sense of familiarity. When schools open again, help them return to normal activities including going back to class and participating in sports and play groups.
  • Make time for them - Help kids understand they are safe and secure by talking, playing and doing other family activities with them. To help younger children feel safe and calm, read them their favorite book, play a relaxing family game or activity. For other ideas, visit the National Child Traumatic Stress Network website.
  • Encourage and answer questions - Talk with your children about the event and what is being done to keep them safe and help with the recovery process. Realize that children’s concerns may be very different that those of adults, so be sure to ask them what they are concerned about. When children ask about whether another storm may occur, realize that their underlying question is likely whether or not they need to worry that a storm as bad as Sandy is likely to occur. Help them understand that while storms are common, Sandy was a particularly devastating storm and that other bad weather that may occur in the near future is unlikely to cause as many problems. Help them understand what is being done to protect them and their families from future harm and why other storms are unlikely to be as destructive.
  • Provide realistic reassurance - Children’s worries may be based on misunderstanding or misinformation. When possible, provide realistic reassurance. But if their concerns are real, acknowledge their concerns and help them think through strategies to deal with their distress. Remember, if children feel they are worried – they are worried.

Here are some other useful resources to help children cope with a disaster:

American Academy of Pediatrics

Other Resources

Promoting Youth Preparedness

In the News: From Survivor to Survivor - Managing the stress after a disaster

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(The views expressed in the CNN story do not necessarily represent the official views of the United States, the Department of Homeland Security, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA does not endorse any non-government organizations, entities, or services.)

With the great amount of devastation Sandy has brought upon states along the East Coast, I wanted to take a moment to share an article on CNN.com from Hurricane Katrina and Joplin survivors who felt the way many disaster survivors may feel at this point in time. Three days after Sandy’s landfall, millions of people remain without power and their homes and lives as they knew it, have completely changed.

Here’s an excerpt from storm survivors sharing their experiences and giving advice on how to move forward after experiencing a disaster:

Devastation is devastation, whether a hurricane rips up your home or a tornado takes the person you love most in the world. It's loss, shock and confusion. It's anger and sadness and resentment. It's being flustered like you've never been flustered before.

But it's going to be OK: Take it from the people who survived Hurricane Katrina and the Missourians from Joplin whose town was leveled by the worst tornado in U.S. history.

            They want Sandy survivors to know a few things:

You're probably on autopilot right now. You're moving through it. Stand in the ruins of the life you had before the disaster. Understand that was before. The after is when you're good and ready.

Hours will still go by though. Days will happen. You might not remember to eat because you're filling out paperwork and talking to insurance operators. You will get put on hold.

            Your life will feel forever on hold.

At some point, when you think you're handling it, you will stumble on something that reminds you of that old life, maybe it's a thing or it's a memory. Maybe this will happen when you finally get the sleep you've gone without since the disaster. You're going to feel really, really awful again for awhile.

Eileen Romero, Hurricane Katrina Survivor, “Understand that the life you had before something like this isn't coming back, and that's not always a bad thing. Discover and make yourself anew."

Read the rest of the story from CNN.

As we continue to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, we remain committed to bringing the resources of the federal family together to support disaster survivors. We are and will continue to work side by side in close coordination with state, local and tribal emergency management officials, voluntary and faith-based communities, and private sector to support response and recovery efforts in affected states.

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