Common Misunderstandings Can Harm Disaster Survivors

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Release date: 
May 18, 2010
Release Number: 
1916-005

CLINTON, Miss. -- During the first few weeks following a disaster, survivors, still dazed by the trauma, may be easily misled by half-truths and rumors. Common misconceptions can slow  recovery and possibly prevent some eligible survivors from getting help.

Stresses and uncertainties caused by the tornadoes that stormed across Mississippi in April and May make it easy for rumors and false stories to breed and expand.

Disaster officials stress that misinformation is the last thing people need after undergoing such losses. While state and federal programs are not designed to make storm victims whole, they can provide the kinds of assistance found in good information that helps survivors get on their feet to restore their lives.

Officials of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and Federal Emergency Management Agency pointed to two easy ways to begin the application process and get the correct information. Call FEMA's toll-free number, 800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 800-462-7585 for the hearing- and speech-impaired. Both numbers are available from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time, seven days a week until further notice. Multilingual operators are also available to answer calls. Residents with Internet access have the option to register on the agency's website at www.disasterassistance.gov where valuable recovery information is also available. The status of an application also may be tracked here.

Following are some clarifications for common misconceptions about disaster assistance:

I have insurance. I hear there still may be other help available to me.
True. Insurance is your main source for money to put your life back in order after a disaster. But there are some things that insurance may not cover. That is where federal disaster programs may be able to help.

I have to wait for my insurance adjuster before I apply for disaster assistance.
False. 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 must file an insurance claim, find out what your policy covers, and be sure to keep papers and receipts for any work. If you still have unmet disaster-related needs, you may be considered for FEMA assistance. To avoid a duplication of benefits, please submit your insurance settlement or denial documents to FEMA along with an appeal letter.

I already repaired my home. It is too late to apply.
False. You may be eligible for FEMA assistance for expenses not covered by your insurance.

I have to make a reservation and go to a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) to apply for assistance.
False. There are two ways to apply for assistance. You may call FEMA's toll-free number at 800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 800-462-7585 from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time, seven days a week. Individuals with Internet access can apply on the agency's website at www.disasterassistance.gov. Disaster Recovery Centers (DRC) are designed to provide additional information or assistance. No appointment is necessary and you may visit any DRC even if it is not located in your town or county. U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) representatives are also available to assist with low-interest loan applications for homeowners and renters, as well as businesses of all sizes.

I got help from the American Red Cross, but I still need to apply to FEMA if I need assistance.
True. FEMA c...

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
State/Tribal Government or Region: 
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