If anyone questions the value of smartphone devices, point them to Hurricane Isaac survivors. The disaster has helped us learn how survivors request and access assistance online during times of need. Fortunately, FEMA’s efforts prior to the storm, to put digital preparedness, response and recovery resources in the palms of peoples’ hands, have proven to be invaluable.
From August 31 to September 9, a record number of disaster survivors—primarily from Hurricane Isaac—used DisasterAssistance.gov to apply for assistance, update their information, and check the status of their application online. On September 4 alone, we received 55,752 visits to the site—the greatest volume of single-day traffic to the site since its launch in 2008, far surpassing the previous single-day high of 33,434 visitors from Tropical Storm Lee in September 2011. Also during this timeframe, 86,847 Hurricane Isaac survivors (combined total from web and mobile registrations) applied for assistance on DisasterAssistance.gov, 17,471 of whom applied using their smartphones. In addition, 57,480 status inquiries were made with the new mobile application inquiry feature, rolled-out in August, which gives survivors the ability to use their smartphones to check the status of their disaster assistance application.
DisasterAssistance.gov Hurricane Isaac Stats at a Glance: August 31 - September 9
- 328,222 total web visits, 49,596 (18%) via a smartphone
- 86,847 total online applications submitted, 17,471 (20%) via a smartphone
- 160,637 total application inquiries, 57,480 (36%) via a smartphone
Not only can users submit and check the status of their application on a mobile device, they can also add or update contact information should they move or become displaced, as is common following disasters. On-the-go survivors can also add or update insurance and bank information, as well as find information and referrals on 72 forms of disaster assistance from the 17 federal agencies that participate in DisasterAssistance.gov, which the site makes easier through a new mobile questionnaire.
The questionnaire serves as a tool to help survivors quickly and anonymously get a personalized list of possible assistance. Recently upgraded on both the full and mobile versions of DisasterAssistance.gov, the questionnaire is now dynamic, meaning it tailors recommendations based on how survivors answer questions as they answer them. More than 8,500 Isaac survivors have used the questionnaire, which also enables users to sort, tag, and find more information on specific forms of assistance, as well as to print and email their results.
The mobile outreach effort is part of a much larger, ongoing initiative to simplify the process of identifying and applying for disaster assistance for survivors using DisasterAssistance.gov as the first stop for disaster relief. A product of the Disaster Assistance Improvement Program, the website enables survivors to apply for FEMA Individual Assistance and refers them to other forms of assistance, like loan applications from the Small Business Administration. The site also provides community resource information and disaster news feeds to help individuals, families and businesses prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters.
DisasterAssistance.gov reduces the time needed to apply for aid and check the status of claims while decreasing redundancy in application forms and processes. For more information, visit www.DisasterAssistance.gov on your computer or m.fema.gov on your smartphone device.