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What We’re Watching: 11/30/12

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At the end of each week, we post a "What We’re Watching" blog as we look ahead to the weekend and recap events from the week. We encourage you to share it with your friends and family, and have a safe weekend.

Hurricane Sandy Recovery

It’s been just over a month since Hurricane Sandy made landfall, and recovery continues in full swing.  Thousands of FEMA employees are working in the impacted areas to help meet the immediate and long term needs of those impacted by the storm.  Earlier today, the Federal Coordinating Officer in New York, Mike Byrne, offered his perspective and blogged about his experience leading the federal government’s response and recovery there.

For the latest on the recovery efforts to Hurricane Sandy across the east coast, check out these state-specific pages:

And if you’re looking for photos and videos related to Hurricane Sandy, our multimedia library is the place to go.  Here are a few of the images from the past few days:

small business administration staff

CAPTION: Bay Head, N.J., Nov. 30, 2012 -- A Small Business Administration (SBA) representative provides information to a Bay Head, NJ storm survivor about some of the programs that are available to eligible survivors at a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) in Bay Head, NJ. SBA is working with FEMA specialists as well as local, state and other federal agencies to provide assistance to Hurricane Sandy survivors.

disaster survivor at disaster recovery center

CAPTION: Seaford, N.Y., Nov. 27, 2012 -- FEMA Disaster Recovery specialist Novella Robinson assists a Hurricane Sandy survivor with his FEMA registration questions at a FEMA/State Disaster Recovery Center in Seaford, New York.

administrator fugate in connecticut

CAPTION: Milford, Conn., Nov. 27, 2012 -- FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate tours the damaged areas of Milford with local officials. The Administrator came to Connecticut to see first-hand the damage to homes and property.

park service staff surveying garage

CAPTION: Sandy Hook, N.J., Nov. 28, 2012 -- Two National Park Service employees measure a damaged door for replacement. This lifeguard station was damaged during Hurricane Sandy. FEMA is working with state and local officials to assist residents who were affected by Hurricane Sandy.

 

Winter Weather Safety

As we head into December and colder weather becomes more frequent, I wanted to share some safety tips that can come in handy this time of year. Now’s the time to make sure your family, home, or car is prepared for cold temperatures, such as:

  • Thoroughly check and update your family's emergency supply kit before winter approaches and add the following supplies in preparation for winter weather.
    • Rock salt or more environmentally safe products to melt ice on walkways,
    • Sand to improve traction on exterior walkways,
    • Snow shovels and other snow removal equipment, and
    • Include adequate clothing and blankets to keep you warm.
  • Have an emergency kit in your car, in the event you are stranded by a blizzard or traffic jam. Be sure to include items you would need to stay warm and comfortable for at least 72 hours.
  • Learn how to shut off water valves (in case a pipe bursts).
  • Limit travel during severe winter weather, only venture out on the roads if it’s absolutely necessary. If you must travel, be sure to let someone know your destination and when they can expect you.

And while you prepare for colder weather and stay warm this winter, make sure you’re doing so in a way that doesn’t raise your risk for fires.  Sadly, the number of home fires tends to increase during the winter months – but here are a few ways you can reduce the risk of fire at home:

  • Avoid using lighted candles.  If you must use candles, place them in sturdy candleholders that won’t burn.
  • Space heaters need space; keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from each heater.
  • Check electrical cords often and replace cracked or damaged electrical or extension cords.  Don’t try to repair them.
  • Never use your oven or stovetop to heat your home.  They are not designed for this purpose and can be a fire hazard.  In addition, carbon monoxide (CO) gas might kill people and pets.

For more winter fire safety tips, visit the U.S. Fire Administration’s website.  Have a great weekend, and stay safe.

New York, One Month After Sandy

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I am a native New Yorker. 

I was born in New York City.  I grew up in the city’s Public Housing developments in East Harlem and my Mom and Dad, brothers and sisters still live here.  I worked for the New York Fire Department for 20 years, eventually serving as a Captain.  I worked at the New York Office of Emergency Management and then I joined FEMA. 

I’m a proud New Yorker and today, I’m honored to be part of the federal team that is working hard to assist my home city and state. 

Coney Island, N.Y., Nov. 12, 2012 -- Aerial view of damage and debris on Coney Island, New York. Storm surge from Hurricane Sandy caused flooding ...

Coney Island, N.Y., Nov. 12, 2012 -- Aerial view of damage and debris on Coney Island, New York. Storm surge from Hurricane Sandy caused flooding and power outages throughout the island.

Long Beach, N.Y., Nov. 7, 2012 -- Cars were buried in sand from Hurricane Sandy. The storm surge created widespread flooding, power outages and devastation on Long Beach, New York. FEMA is working with state and local officials to assist residents who were affected by Hurricane Sandy.

Long Beach, N.Y., Nov. 7, 2012 -- Cars were buried in sand from Hurricane Sandy. The storm surge created widespread flooding, power outages and devastation on Long Beach, New York. FEMA is working with state and local officials to assist residents who were affected by Hurricane Sandy.

Even before the storm, FEMA was preparing. We prepositioned food, water and blankets at two incident support bases in New York. FEMA Incident Management Assistance Teams (IMAT), trained to quickly coordinate federal resources to support the state were on the ground days before landfall.  We also started calling in the cavalry, everyone from the U.S. Coast Guard, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. We even had the Marines land on the beach in the Rockaways.

In the response phase of a disaster like this, it is critical that we focus on what I like to call the “four Ps” – “People, Power, Pumping and Pick-it-up.”

People always come first. The very first thing we did was get life-saving commodities out to the people.  Within 24 hours we supplied more than a million liters of water and more than a million shelf ready meals  to the New York National Guard and Voluntary Agencies throughout the city - who quickly distributed them to the New Yorkers in need.  The third day after the storm, we were set up in all the affected areas. 

New York is an amazing place, made up of different people from all over the world. Every neighborhood is distinctly unique, with different traditions, dialects and sense of community. But most of all, New York is made up of neighborhoods.

For example, you look on a map and see the Rockaways.  But there are really four different Rockaways.  You have Far Rock, Rockaway Beach, Belle Harbor and Breezy Point.  Each neighborhood is different.

We set up Disaster Recovery Centers, where people can meet and talk about assistance face-to-face.  I was out at the center in Rockaway Beach and there were tons of people waiting to be seen.  Everyone had a number and I talked to a guy that had number 245.  The center was on number 150.  I told him we had heated buses that would take people to the Breezy Point center, but he wanted to stay with his neighbors and wait.  That’s New York.

Today, we have 34 centers throughout damaged areas, covering the neighborhoods that have had the most damage.  Over 56,000 New Yorkers have visited these centers.  And we plan to open more.

Far Rockaway, N.Y., Nov. 10, 2012 --FEMA Corps personnel assist disaster survivors at a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center in Far Rockaway, New York. FEMA and the State set up the center to assist the needs of hurricane survivors.

Far Rockaway, N.Y., Nov. 10, 2012 --FEMA Corps personnel assist disaster survivors at a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center in Far Rockaway, New York. FEMA and the State set up the center to assist the needs of hurricane survivors.

Far Rockaway, N.Y., Nov. 10, 2012 -- FEMA Community Relations specialist, Teisha Jeeter draws pictures with young disaster survivor, Luna Natalia Voss at a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) in Far Rockaway, New York. The center was set up to assist the needs of Hurricane Sandy survivors.

Far Rockaway, N.Y., Nov. 10, 2012 -- FEMA Community Relations specialist, Teisha Jeeter draws pictures with young disaster survivor, Luna Natalia Voss at a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) in Far Rockaway, New York. The center was set up to assist the needs of Hurricane Sandy survivors.

The New York metropolitan area has over 15 million people and this is a city that is built vertically.  We knew immediately that having enough people would be a huge challenge. We had over 1200 people out in the field, going door-to-door in the damaged areas.  We had to activate the Department of Homeland Security surge capacity force to have enough people to do these sweeps.   This “surge force” consisted of over 1,100 employees from the agencies that make up DHS, such as Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, Transportation Security Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard.   They are spending the nights on Merchant Marine training ships so we don’t take hotel rooms from survivors. I have been out to the ships and the sleeping conditions are austere, but the food is good.

A little over a week after the storm, on Nov. 6th, FEMA had received over 135,000 applications and approved almost $185 million in housing assistance to disaster survivors. We also had over 1,000 housing inspectors in the field who had completed over 17,000 inspections.

 Long Beach, N.Y., Nov. 9, 2012 -- FEMA Housing Inspector, Bill Gay inspects a home in Long Beach for Hurricane Sandy related damages. The FEMA Individual Assistance program provides financial assistance for temporary housing and minor housing repairs.

Long Beach, N.Y., Nov. 9, 2012 -- FEMA Housing Inspector, Bill Gay inspects a home in Long Beach for Hurricane Sandy related damages. The FEMA Individual Assistance program provides financial assistance for temporary housing and minor housing repairs.

In addition, we have employed a diverse outreach approach to make sure the word gets out amidst New York’s multicultural mosaic. When our community relations members come in contact with people who are have limited English proficiency, we have translators and materials in 21 different languages to ensure they get assistance.

Coney Island, N.Y., Nov. 25, 2012 -- FEMA Community Relations Limited English Proficiency (LEP) specialists, Eric Phillipson and Rossy Rey assist Russian hurricane survivor, Knana Letner with her special disaster related needs. The LEP strategic strike team was assigned to the Russian community in Coney Island, New York in response to Hurricane Sandy.

Coney Island, N.Y., Nov. 25, 2012 -- FEMA Community Relations Limited English Proficiency (LEP) specialists, Eric Phillipson and Rossy Rey assist Russian hurricane survivor, Knana Letner with her special disaster related needs. The LEP strategic strike team was assigned to the Russian community in Coney Island, New York in response to Hurricane Sandy.

As for power, FEMA established a National Power Restoration Taskforce to cut through the red tape, increase federal, state, tribal, local and private sector coordination and restore power and fuel to people as quickly as possible.  The Defense Logistics Agency delivered more than 2.3 million gallons of fuel to distribution points in New York and New Jersey. The U.S. Air Force transported equipment and supplies for power restoration efforts, including 69 vehicles belonging to the Southern California Edison utility company. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers installed 177 generators to sites throughout New York including apartment buildings managed by the New York City Housing Authority.

Pumping was a modern technological miracle.  We had subway tunnels full of water.  The Hugh Carey Tunnel (it will always be the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to me) was full to the roof.  I was there and saw it, and I will tell you, I thought it would take months to get those tunnels pumped out.   The Army Corps pumped out over 470 million gallons of water in less than two weeks. 

The final P is “pick-it-up”.  I’m talking about debris.  A storm like this one generates a ton of debris and picking it up is always a challenge.  The President signed an order saying we could pay for straight time for 30 days for debris pickup. Normally, we just pay for overtime, but being able to pay for all of the hours worked is a huge incentive to get the debris picked up and puts much needed money back into jurisdictions.  It also incentivizes them to pick up the debris fast, because we only do this for 30 days.  So far, we have picked up over 1.4 million cubic yards of debris.

We’ve done a lot, but, as long as there are people without power and in need of shelter, I am not satisfied. That’s why we came up with an innovative housing program called Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power (STEP).  This program is designed for people who have power to the street, but cannot connect it to their houses.  These are temporary repairs that are designed to let a family “shelter-in-place” while permanent repairs are made to their homes.  We do this by making minor repairs to meters and panels to restore temporary power. The program also pays for other temporary housing repairs, such as covering windows, roofs and exterior doors. These repairs are meant to allow residents to return to safe and livable homes. 

If you live in the five boroughs of New York City, call 311 to access information about the program. For those in Nassau County, call 1-888-684-4267 and if you live in Suffolk County, call 2-11. Your county or city will decide what elements of the STEP Program are available for your residence.

Long Beach, N.Y., Nov. 24, 2012 -- Electricians installing a heat register as part of the FEMA STEP Program. FEMA in conjunction with state, local and tribal partners, is implementing a Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power (STEP) Program to help people get back into their homes quickly and safely. STEP assists State, local and tribal governments in performing work and services essential to saving lives, protecting public health and safety, and protecting property. The program funds certain necessary and essential measures to help restore power, heat and hot water to primary residences that could regain power through necessary and essential repairs. STEP can help residents safely shelter-in-place in their homes pending more permanent repairs. FEMA is working with many partners including federal, state, local and tribal governments, voluntary faith-based and community-based organizations along with the private sector to assist residents impacted by Hurricane Sandy.

Long Beach, N.Y., Nov. 24, 2012 -- Electricians installing a heat register as part of the FEMA STEP Program. FEMA in conjunction with state, local and tribal partners, is implementing a Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power (STEP) Program to help people get back into their homes quickly and safely. STEP assists State, local and tribal governments in performing work and services essential to saving lives, protecting public health and safety, and protecting property. The program funds certain necessary and essential measures to help restore power, heat and hot water to primary residences that could regain power through necessary and essential repairs. STEP can help residents safely shelter-in-place in their homes pending more permanent repairs. FEMA is working with many partners including federal, state, local and tribal governments, voluntary faith-based and community-based organizations along with the private sector to assist residents impacted by Hurricane Sandy.

We have more work to do. When President Obama visited New York and toured the damaged areas, he looked directly in my eyes and said “stay on it.”

We’d like the New York Hurricane Sandy page to inform survivors of our future plans. I have over 3,000 staff here and I am working hard to hire locals – New Yorkers – to help with the recovery.  

We plan to share stories and updates as the rebuilding process continues. And, of course, you will hear from me.  I love to tell stories and I think this recovery might be one of the greatest stories of our time.

Telling the Recovery Story with Crayons and Construction Paper

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Editor's Note: This post originally appeared on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Official Blog.

A month after Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast, hundreds of families continue their daily struggle to put their lives back together. Many of their homes destroyed, these families face living in temporary dwellings like area hotels and relatives’ homes. Their children are staying far away from their schools and some families are facing a decision whether they can move back to their old neighborhoods or whether they may have to relocate permanently.

Children's letters at a Disaster Recovery Center in New Jersey.

Here at the Disaster Recovery Center in Union Beach, New Jersey, letters from school children adorn the walls as reminder that some families still need help.  These letters help raise the energy level, already running extremely high, as many of us are not only helping people, we’re helping our neighbors.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) continue to work tirelessly so that every one of these families has a roof over their heads during this transition. HUD and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) are cutting red tape in an effort to help families by:

  1. Instructing all FHA-approved lenders to release insurance proceeds to homeowners as quickly as possible to accelerate the rebuilding process;
  2. Granting a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures and forbearance on foreclosures for FHA-insured households whose homes were damaged or destroyed; and
  3. Issuing guidance to help families with FHA-insured mortgages struggling to repair or rebuild their homes in the wake of a major disaster, plus directing lenders to release insurance proceeds to borrowing rather than to apply those payments to bring delinquent mortgages current.

Pennsylvania Recovery Continues, One Month Out

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It’s been one month since President Obama issued an emergency declaration on Oct. 29 for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to support those impacted by Hurricane Sandy.  Here’s an update on FEMA and the state’s efforts in Pennsylvania thus far:

Assessing damages

During the damage assessment process, 11 teams conducted boots-on-the-ground assessments in eight counties. In Franklin County, the Civil Air Patrol provided officials with a bird’s eye view of damages, flying over Hurricane Sandy-impacted homes and businesses there.

assessing damages

CAPTION: FEMA Individual Assistance Specialist Cynthia Lavigne and Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency Project Specialist Diane Nestler assess Hurricane Sandy damage in Lehigh County. Photo by FEMA/Elizabeth Stands

Ensuring power in critical facilities

Additionally, at the request of the Commonwealth, FEMA began coordinating the installation of generators before Hurricane Sandy swept through. FEMA tasked a specialized U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Emergency Power Planning and Response Team to install generators in locations such as medical facilities, emergency operation centers and emergency shelters.
 

fema generator awaits use

CAPTION: In response to a critical power shortfall resulting from Hurricane Sandy, FEMA tasked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Emergency Planning and Response Team to install a 365-kilowatt generator at St. Luke’s Hospital in Bethlehem, Pa. Photo by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

One example was at St. Luke’s Hospital where personnel feared the main generator was in danger of failing. The team installed an additional generator and planned to switch to backup power when they were asked to stand down until a critical brain surgery operation could be completed without the possibility of a power interruption.  Once the operation was complete, the additional generator was installed to ensure a constant supply of power to the hospital.

 

Reaching out to disaster survivors

FEMA community relations specialists, at the request of the Commonwealth, assisted storm-impacted residents at an American Red Cross shelter in Bucks County at Palisades High School in Kintnersville. For three days, five FEMA specialists helped to distribute water, meals and other necessary supplies at the shelter, where hundreds of Hurricane Sandy-impacted residents sought assistance.

They worked with about 50 local volunteers, ranging in age from 10 to 88 years old, and helped more than 600 residents on the first day (Nov. 1), more than 900 residents the next day, and more than 1,000 on the third day.

FEMA community relations specialists also loaded clean-up kits, rakes, shovels, gloves, flashlights, blue tarps and other items into the American Red Cross emergency response vehicle to distribute to residents impacted by the hurricane who were not physically able to access the emergency shelter.

 

red cross meals distributed

CAPTION: FEMA Community Relations team member Mary Dawson, American Red Cross Volunteer Stan Dunn, and school volunteer Tony Weiss load a Red Cross emergency response vehicle at the Bucks County Red Cross Shelter in Palisades High School in Kintnersville, Pa. Photo by FEMA/George Armstrong

In comparison to the full-scale recovery efforts happening in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Rhode Island – the amount of work in Pennsylvania may seem small.  However, I’m proud of FEMA’s work and close partnership with other members of the emergency management team in Pennsylvania, and we will continue to support the state as needed.

This Thanksgiving, a Time of Reflection

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This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for the partnership of everyone who makes up the emergency management team – individuals and communities, organizations and companies, and all levels of government – because no one can do it alone when it comes to planning for a disaster, responding to one, or recovering after one.  This year we have definitely had our work cut out for us – from wildfires, to the derecho, to Hurricane Isaac, and Hurricane Sandy, we’ve tackled each disaster by working together as a team.

As a result of Hurricane Sandy, this Thanksgiving may be different for many compared to years past.  Survivors of Sandy who are going through the recovery process, like all survivors of disasters, will feel stress and uncertainty.  But there is one thing I am certain of, and that is that we as a nation will always support those in need.  We’ve weathered storms in the past, and the Whole Community effort endures.  I’m confident that the communities impacted by Sandy will be strong and enduring in the end.

To the many emergency management partners assisting the survivors: you find yourselves away from home because duty calls, so know that I’m thankful for your service and sacrifice and I’m humbled by your actions, as this is the ultimate example of neighbors helping neighbors.

As we always do at this time of the year, but especially after this year, I ask everyone to take a moment to reflect on their blessings and what they’re thankful for this year, and on behalf of everyone at FEMA, I wish you a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving.

An Important Part of the Team and Sandy Recovery: the Department of Housing and Urban Development

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secretary donovan press conference
CAPTION: Lincroft, N.J., Nov. 16, 2012 -- Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan speaks at a press conference concerning Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts, as Department of Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano and Senator stand in the background.

As we often say at FEMA, successful emergency management requires a team effort.  Without question, the importance of teamwork has never been more evident as the recovery to Hurricane Sandy continues.  At the direction of President Obama, FEMA continues to coordinate the federal government’s efforts in a coordinated way that reaches disaster survivors.  Whether it’s the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers helping with debris removal, the Environmental Protection Agency advising survivors on mold removal, or the Small Business Administration helping affected business owners get their doors open quickly – FEMA continues to leverage the expertise of our federal partners to make a lasting impact.

Another important partner on the team is the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  After many disasters, FEMA works closely with HUD to ensure those impacted by the disaster have safe housing options if their residence was damaged or destroyed.

Last week, President Obama announced that he asked Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan to continue to work closely with Governors, mayors and local officials of New Jersey and New York as they begin the process of identifying redevelopment plans for affected communities.  This announcement further links FEMA’s role in disaster recovery with HUD’s role in redevelopment, ensuring the two agencies will continue to work closely together.  As long term recovery needs are identified, HUD will lend expertise in translating those needs into solutions that work for disaster survivors. 

If you’re a disaster survivor, the President’s announcement does not change the process of applying for assistance from the federal government.  FEMA will continue to administer federal disaster assistance, so it’s important to apply through FEMA if you have been impacted by Hurricane Sandy.  You can apply for assistance by visiting www.disasterassistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-3362 (FEMA). 

Again, FEMA will continue to lead the federal government’s recovery efforts in response to Hurricane Sandy, and a great way to keep up with the progress is through this blog, the FEMA Sandy Facebook and Twitter accounts, or at www.fema.gov/sandy.  You can also follow HUD’s Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts on their website.

meeting at FEMA office in new jersey
CAPTION: Lincroft, N.J., Nov. 16, 2012 -- Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and Shaun Donovan, Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, along with members of Congress, greet FEMA employees at the Joint Field Office where Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts are coordinated.

What to Expect During the FEMA Housing Inspection Process

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fema inspector
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.

So far, more than 444,100 Hurricane Sandy survivors from Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island have applied for federal disaster assistance and more than $782 million in assistance has been approved.  As Sandy survivors continue to apply for assistance, many may find themselves asking what’s next after registering with FEMA. Often times, a housing inspection is needed to verify and assess damage claims made during registration, which is normal after any disaster.

After you register, one of the more than 2,000 FEMA Housing Inspectors on the ground will contact you to schedule an appointment to come see the damaged property if it is accessible. The 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. This is important: there is no fee for the inspection.

When a FEMA housing inspector comes to visit your home, be sure they show you proper identification. If they do not show you photo identification, then do not proceed with the inspection. Unfortunately, disasters often bring out criminals who prey on the needs of disaster survivors – so beware of scams and scam artists. 

It’s important to note that throughout the recovery process, applicants may receive a visit from more than one inspector. In addition to FEMA housing inspectors, representatives from the Small Business Administration (SBA), as well as state and local officials could also visit neighborhoods in affected areas, so don’t be alarmed if you receive a visit from more than one inspector.

If you suspect someone of posing as a FEMA inspector, call our toll-free Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721, or your local law enforcement officials.

When a FEMA Housing Inspector visits your home, someone 18 years of age or older who lived in the household prior to the disaster must be present for the scheduled appointment. The inspector will ask to see:

  • Photo 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.

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:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • If you’re referred to the Small Business Administration, 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.

Again, the first step in receiving assistance is registering for assistance with FEMA.  So if you’re a Hurricane Sandy survivor and you haven’t registered yet, we encourage you to take advantage of our many ways to register for assistance:

  • Over the phone by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). Disaster assistance applicants, who have a speech disability or hearing loss and use TTY, should call 1-800-462-7585 directly; for those who use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 1-800-621-3362. 
  • Online at www.disasterassistance.gov
  • On your mobile device at m.fema.gov
  • Or by visiting a disaster recovery center

If you’re a disaster survivor or know someone affected by Hurricane Sandy, please share this information with them.

For Hurricane Sandy recovery updates, visit www.fema.gov/sandy and follow us on Twitter and Facebook: @FEMASandy & www.facebook.com/FEMASandy


fema inspector
Monmouth Beach, N.J., Nov. 12, 2012 -- A FEMA housing inspector records damages to a home in Monmouth Beach, NJ that was impacted by Hurricane Sandy. FEMA is providing housing inspection to residents who have registered and are seeking assistance in rebuilding their homes.

Avoiding Scam Artists during Sandy Recovery

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As Sandy survivors continue to register for disaster assistance with FEMA and many others begin the process of cleaning and repairing their homes, we wanted to remind everyone that as you look for contractors and companies to assist you with your recovery process, be mindful of scams and scam artists. 

Although many businesses, voluntary, faith-based, and community-based organizations, government agencies and committed citizens come together to try and meet the needs of the affected individuals and communities, disasters  can also bring out criminals looking to prey on survivors by offering fraudulent services.

To help you spot fraud, here is a list of consumer safety tips to keep in mind when applying for disaster assistance and working with contractors:

  1. There is never a fee to apply for FEMA disaster assistance or to receive it. 
  2. There is no fee for FEMA or U.S. Small Business Administration property damage inspections. 
  3. The only ways to register for FEMA help are to: call 800-621-3362 (TTY: 800-462-7585), visit www.DisasterAssistance.gov or m.fema.gov from a smartphone or Web-enabled device, speak to a FEMA employee at a Disaster Recovery Center.
  4. Government workers will never ask for a fee or payment. They wear an official government photo ID.  Watch out for middle men who promise you will receive money, especially if they ask for an up-front payment.
  5. Get three written estimates for repair work. Then check credentials and contact your local Better Business Bureau or Chamber of Commerce to learn about any complaints against the contractor or business.
  6. Before work begins, make sure you get a written contract detailing all the work to be performed, the costs, a projected completion date, and how to negotiate changes and settle disputes. 
  7. Make sure the contract clearly states who will obtain the necessary permits. Consider having a lawyer review the contract if substantial costs are involved. Keep a copy of the signed contract. 
  8. If the contractor provides any guarantees, they should be written into the contract clearly, stating what is guaranteed, who is responsible for the guarantee and how long the guarantee is valid. 
  9. Pay only by check or a credit card. A reasonable down payment may be required to buy materials for some projects, but don't pay anything without a signed contract. 

If you suspect anyone – an inspector, disaster survivor, or someone posing as one of these – of fraudulent activities, call our toll-free Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721, or your local law enforcement officials.

If you’re a survivor and haven’t registered for assistance yet, please see #3 above, because registering for assistance is the first step. 

While we’re discussing scams, we wanted to address a few rumors and potential scams that have recently been reported and mentioned on many social media channels:

  • FEMA is providing $300 for food assistance - This is FALSE.
  • FEMA is hiring for cleanup crews and inspectors - This is FALSE.
  • FEMA is giving out cash cards to disaster survivors - This is FALSE.

None of the rumors are true, so if you see or hear people discussing or passing these rumors along, please help us spread the message that they are false. For more information on these and other rumors floating around, visit our Hurricane Sandy Rumor Control Page.

Assisting Survivors Through our Disaster Recovery Centers & Community Relations Specialists

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Since Hurricane Sandy made landfall, FEMA has been working hard to make sure disaster survivors receive the information and help they need to apply for disaster assistance with us and our partners, as well as other organizations that provide assistance.

One of the ways we’re reaching out to survivors is through our Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs). At these centers, disaster survivors can meet one-on-one with officials from voluntary and non-profit agencies, local communities, and state and federal agencies such as FEMA and the Small Business Administration.  Personnel staffing the DRCs are there to answer questions from survivors about the types of assistance available, how to apply for assistance and details about how exactly the recovery process works.  It is important to note that survivors do not need to visit DRCs to apply for assistance. The centers are simply another resource that FEMA is using to get everyone the help they need. 

As of today, 30 Disaster Recovery Centers are open in New York, 23 in New Jersey and seven in Connecticut and more continue to open.  FEMA is working closely with state and local officials in the hardest hit areas to identify future DRC sites that are accessible to those who need help and are large enough to handle the full suite of services.

In addition to our Recovery Centers, we are also out in the communities working to assist survivors through our Community Relations (CR) specialists who are going door-to-door in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to help explain the types of assistance that are available through the federal government and to help residents register. Having these teams on the ground allow us to reach survivors in their homes and communities as quickly and effectively as possible. The Community Relations teams also help to dispel rumors in the community, identify if survivors need translated information, and coordinate and assist those with functional or access needs.

As many people across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic continue to recover from Hurricane Sandy, members of the entire emergency management team, including the federal, state, tribal, and local governments, the faith based and non-profit communities, and the public, are working together to support those across the impacted area. If you need help applying for assistance, please visit a DRC or speak to a Community Relations specialist.

There are four ways you can find a disaster recovery center location,

  1. Search on your computer
  2. Search on your mobile phone at m.fema.gov
  3. Text DRC and your Zip Code to 43362 (4FEMA) For example, if you lived in Atlantic City, NJ you would text: DRC 08401 (standard data rates apply)
  4. Use the FEMA smartphone app and locate one on the map

The content is updated regularly, so be sure to check for updates, changes and new locations. 

Honoring Our Veterans

Author: 

Today, our Nation pays tribute to the millions of military veterans who have served the United States as members of our Armed Forces.  We honor the courage, sacrifice, and dedication you exhibited in protecting our country.

To veterans here at FEMA, although many of you are no longer wearing a military uniform, you have elected to continue to serve your country by joining the FEMA team – and we thank you for bringing your skills, talents, and experiences to contribute to the success of our mission year round, and especially during our current response to Hurricane Sandy. 

And as part of that response, veterans from across DHS have also played an integral role as part of our larger FEMA team, making up the DHS Surge Capacity Force, who have been trained and deployed to New York and New Jersey serving in community relations and individual assistance roles.

I also want to thank all veterans and the many members of the FEMA family who continue to serve in the National Guard and Reserves and salute the many active duty service members and veterans in our partner agencies in federal, state, local and tribal organizations that share our emergency management goals.

On this day, please join me in thanking our veterans for all that they have done — and all they continue to do — to protect our country and to help keep America safe.

Posted on Sun, 11/11/2012 - 18:49

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