Clarifying Disaster Questions

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Release date: 
May 5, 2009
Release Number: 

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- In the first few weeks following a disaster, residents may be misled by half-truths and rumors about how to get help and the various assistance programs that are available. When residents suffer losses, the last thing they need is misinformation.

Disaster officials stress that notifying state, county, local officials or registering with voluntary agencies such as the American Red Cross is NOT the same as registering with FEMA. To register for federal assistance, applicants must call FEMA's toll-free number, 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 1-800-462-7585 for the speech- or hearing-impaired, available from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. (EDT), seven days a week until further notice. Multilingual operators are available to answer calls. Residents with Internet access can register on the agency's Web site at, where valuable recovery information also is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The deadline to apply for assistance is June 22.

Answers to some common questions about disaster assistance:

I got help from the American Red Cross; can I still apply to FEMA if I need assistance?
Yes. FEMA coordinates a number of programs to help disaster victims. These programs are different from the emergency food, clothing and shelter initially provided by the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and other voluntary agencies.

I don't really want a loan; do I still need to fill out the SBA application when I receive it?
Yes. If you do not qualify for a loan, you may be considered for other forms of assistance. You may qualify for the "Other Needs Assistance" program that is designed to help meet serious, disaster-related needs. However, you must complete and return the SBA loan application. If the loan application is not returned, you may not be considered for further FEMA assistance.  

I have insurance. Is there other help available to me?
Yes. Insurance is your main source for money to put your life back in order after a disaster, but there are things that insurance does not cover. This is where federal disaster programs may be able to help. You may find that you are "underinsured" and disaster assistance may help make up the difference.

I have flood damage to my vacation home. Can I get help with repairs to a damaged secondary residence?
No.  FEMA only provides assistance for your primary residence.

Do I have to wait for my insurance adjuster before I apply for disaster assistance?
No. You do not have to wait for an agent or adjuster's inspection before applying for assistance or beginning repairs needed to make your house safe, sanitary and functional. However, if you have insurance, you should find out what your policy covers. Be sure to keep papers and receipts for any repair work. If you still have unmet disaster-related needs, call FEMA to apply. Initially, you may not be eligible for assistance until you are able to provide additional insurance settlement information. This is a necessary step to avoid a duplication of benefits.

I already repaired my home. Is it too late to apply?
No. You could qualify for reimbursement of expenses not covered by your insurance.

Do I need to make an appointment at the Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) to register for assistance?
No. But you should register for assistance prior to visiting the DRC. There are two ways to register for assistance. After you have registered by phone or on-line you are encouraged to visit a Di...

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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