BATON ROUGE, La. – Teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are going door to door in communities affected by Hurricane Isaac, seeking out survivors to help connect them with recovery services.
Armed with fliers in English, Spanish, French, Vietnamese and Braille, some 250 Community Relations specialists are providing survivors with valuable information about registering with FEMA and getting local, state and federal assistance.
The effort is part of FEMA’s stepped-up approach to reach survivors in their homes and communities as quickly and effectively as possible after a disaster declaration. Community Relations specialists also have met survivors at Disaster Recovery Centers, at points of distribution, at shelters and through community- and faith-based groups.
“FEMA’s Community Relations teams meet with survivors wherever possible to let them know how FEMA can help them and to listen to their concerns,” said Federal Coordinating Officer Mike Hall. “This creates a vital link that helps us help people.”
The specialists also learn of survivors’ immediate needs and help direct local, state and federal resources to address problems. One Community Relations team is credited with helping prevent a tragedy in Lafourche Parish. When team members visited an elderly woman who wore an oxygen-fed breathing mask, they smelled gas in her home. They calmly asked her to leave the home with them and called local emergency services.
When firefighters arrived, the gas odor was so strong they could not enter the home. Because the woman had breathing assistance, she had not noticed the leak, but emergency officials said a single spark could have caused an explosion.
The Community Relations teams also may be able to dispel rumors in the community and help FEMA debunk myths. The specialists help to identify survivors who require language translations and who have functional or access needs due to a disability or being elderly.
“They are our eyes and ears in the field,” Hall said. “By having Community Relations specialists out there, FEMA and the state are learning how to best help survivors recover from Hurricane Isaac.”
For more information on Louisiana disaster recovery, click www.fema.gov/disaster/4080 or www.gohsep.la.gov. You can follow FEMA on Twitter at www.twitter.com/femaregion6 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FEMA. Also visit our blog at www.fema.gov/blog.
Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status. If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-FEMA (3362). For TTY call 800-462-7585.
FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards. Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/femaregion6, the R6 Hurricane Preparedness website at www.fema.gov/about/regions/regionvi/updates.shtm and the FEMA Blog at http://blog.fema.gov.