12 Recovery Tips for Hurricane Matthew Survivors
More information about strengthening property can be found at www.fema.gov/what-mitigation.
North Carolina survivors who have questions about their flood insurance policies and coverage should call the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362 (Option 2) for voice, 711 and Video Relay Service. If you are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability and use a TTY, call 800-462-7585. Specialists can help with service claims, provide general information regarding policies and offer technical assistance to aid in recovery.
For more information on North Carolina’s recovery, visit fema.gov/disaster/4285 and readync.org. Follow FEMA on Twitter at @femaregion4 and North Carolina Emergency Management @NCEmergency.
FEMA mitigation specialists are on hand to answer questions and offer home improvement tips along with proven methods to prevent or reduce damage from future disasters as well as offer tips and techniques to build hazard resistant homes. Most of the information and the free publications provided are geared for do-it-yourself work and general contractors.
Free reference booklets with information on protecting your home from flood damage will be available at all locations. More information about strengthening property can be found at www.fema.gov/what-mitigation.
Volunteers- The Backbone of Disaster Recovery
Serving People and Bringing Them Hope
For more information, contact North Carolina VOAD
North Carolina Baptists on Mission Disaster Relief
When visiting with homeowners who have just gone through a disaster, the men and women volunteers of North Carolina Baptists on Mission see discouragement in the families’ eyes.
“We ask if the home was affected by hurricane Matthew and if we can help,” said Gaylon Moss, disaster relief coordinator for the organization with its headquarters in Cary. “Then you see life come back. Hope is the biggest thing we do. Once they have hope they get energy and the courage to go on.”
Founded in 1984, North Carolina Baptists on Mission has worked hundreds of disasters in North Carolina and elsewhere alongside FEMA, the state and local governments where help is needed.
The North Carolina Baptists on Mission have trained 15,000 volunteers over the past 18 years. Since Hurricane Matthew hit North Carolina, the organization has worked 16,400 volunteer days to help feed survivors, clean up and clear debris as well as repair projects.
Moss said this volunteer work is one of the missions of the North Carolina Baptist Convention performed by people who can range in age from teens to senior citizens.
“We have volunteers all across the state and in every county,” Moss said. “We partner with Long Term Recovery Committees when possible. We gather information on where the needs are the greatest and the impacts are the most in order to marshal our resources.”
The volunteers generally focus on tree removal, muck-out, tear-out and repairs. They have worked all the big disasters including hurricanes Floyd, Katrina and Sandy. In 2015 alone, the organization responded to 15 disasters involving tornadoes, floods and an earthquake that occurred half way around the world in Nepal.
While some volunteers have specific skills, Moss said the organization looks for people who are patient, flexible and tenacious. The work can range from hard labor to putting up sheetrock on walls, taping and mudding. There is no charge to those they help.
What do the volunteers get back for giving up holidays, family vacations and other commitments?
“Satisfaction of knowing they helped someone in a time of need when they hear words of ‘thank you’ and being described as ‘angels,’” according to Moss.
Note: This is the first in a series of stories highlighting volunteer efforts in North Carolina.
Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church
Many Methodists Called to Disaster Response Ministries
DURHAM, N.C. – Ann Huffman says she would never have believed she would be helping people cope with their losses from Hurricane Matthew when it slammed North Carolina.
“But I have the temperament to do this – it is a wonderful privilege,” said Huffman, who as a retired eighth grade and high school teacher of math and science for 17 years, says she has lived by the motto “panic will never help.”
Her motto fits her volunteer work perfectly. Huffman works as a disaster call center coordinator out of an office in Garner for the North Carolina Conference Disaster Response for the United Methodist Church. She also is the president of the North Carolina Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NC VOAD), which with FEMA and the State of North Carolina, assists Long Term Recovery Communities in meeting unmet needs of disaster survivors.
“We do muck-outs, tear-outs, clean-outs and mold treatments,” Huffman said. She added that mold sets in so quickly that if it isn’t treated early, the survivors will end up with even more damage.
Volunteers, who come from all over the country, also prepare meals, help rebuild, make repairs as well as build new homes. They work with those with unmet needs and low-income families who cannot hire contractors to do the work for them.
“We stay a long time,” she said. “In fact, we were still working on Irene damage from 2011 when Matthew hit.”
Volunteers receive eight hours of training before going out in the field, must pay for their transportation as well as their food. Housing – often a place to put a tent – is provided. Currently the Western North Carolina Conference Disaster Response, to which Huffman belongs, has 557 trained volunteers. The organization has been doing some form of disaster work since 1996.
Survivors may wonder why the volunteers would put up their own money and live in such spartan conditions to help them, Huffman said.
“They wonder why people want to help them and will keep calling to see if they are really coming,” she said. “At some point it dawns on them that they will actually be able to go home again.
As for the volunteers, she said their motive is a deep-seated need that humans have to help people.
“Often, volunteers will go home and send a note thanking me for letting them come.”
This is the second in a series of stories about volunteer organizations that play a big part in disaster recovery
North Carolina Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
Volunteerism is a Way of Life for Mormons
Latter Day Saints churches in Fayetteville stood empty for four straight Sundays immediately following Hurricane Matthew hitting North Carolina. It wasn’t because the parishioners were sleeping in; they were all out helping those who had been affected by the hurricane. Members of the church are commonly known as Mormons.
The Fayetteville area was one of the hardest hit areas in the state.
“They canceled church services so they could work in the command center, mucking out homes and buildings or cutting trees,” said Jere Snyder, a North Carolina disaster coordinator for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Snyder said 3,000 volunteers showed up every weekend. Other areas didn’t cancel services but did send willing parishioners to assist with disaster cleanup.
Volunteerism is a way of life for the religious community, said Snyder. “It’s been going on ever since the church was founded in 1830. Our feeling is Jesus Christ would have us do this – be in service to our fellow man.”
Mormon crews from as far away as Richmond, Virginia; Greensboro and Asheville also came to Fayetteville to help and returned three weekends in a row to help.
“We’ll do whatever we can do for those affected because it is hard to get back to normal,” Snyder added.
The Mormons coordinate with FEMA, state and local emergency managers, long term recovery committees and the North Carolina Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters to determine where people need help. Two of the churches were converted into a call center and a distribution center, with the church grounds transforming into campgrounds for volunteers.
In the call center volunteers managed a hotline where survivors could call in and ask for help. Snyder said it is much more effective than going door-to-door asking people if they needed help.
“The people on the hotline also help survivors by listening and talking to them, saying help will be on the way. At the beginning of the call survivors sound overwhelmed but by the end they are thankful,” he said.
“They were not only grateful that someone would come to help, they also were so thankful that someone cared. Most were in a state of shock and were traumatized,” he said.
As for the volunteers, working disasters can be a life-changing event, Snyder added.
“With young people, it changes them. They get a whole different outlook on life,” he said. “And it brings satisfaction [to more seasoned volunteers]. It can be some of the most spiritual times in their lives to selflessly serve and attend to people’s needs.”
This is the third in a series of web stories on volunteer organizations that provided assistance to Hurricane Matthew survivors in North Carolina.
Long-Term Recovery Begins at the Local Level
In the aftermath of a disaster like Hurricane Matthew, survivors need help that is both short-term for immediate needs and long-term for getting back to normal.
Throughout North Carolina, long-term recovery depends on the behind-the-scenes work of local committees, like the Cumberland Disaster Recovery Coalition (CDRC), that are part of a state and federal network. Who better to understand the unique needs of a survivor on the road to recovery than people from that survivor’s community?
The CDRC is working to meet the unmet needs of Cumberland residents who were affected by Hurricane Matthew with volunteer labor, supplies and grants. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimates that North Carolinians have $6.5 million in unmet needs resulting from the hurricane. FEMA provides some funding and guidance to the coalition as well as other committees. The North Carolina Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters also provides oversight and helps secure volunteers, funding and supplies.
The coalition, which has been active for several years, experienced Hurricane Matthew’s wrath firsthand and had to move from its flooded office in the basement of the Fayetteville United Way before getting back to the business of helping survivors. It has about 60 members who represent faith-based organizations, local charities, community foundations and independent agencies from throughout Cumberland County.
The coalition divides its work among seven committees:
- Case management;
- Unmet needs;
- Finance; and
Each committee has its own tasks, but generally, efforts include recruiting volunteers (both individuals and organizations) to repair or rebuild homes, seeking donations and grants to purchase supplies, and working with, screening and advocating for survivors.
So far, more than two dozen Cumberland County residents have phoned for help from the CDRC. Calls continue to come in. “Within 18 months, we have a goal of restoring 250 homes to a safe, habitable condition,” said Steve Rogers, coalition chairman. This work may include new siding for one home, repainting another, and replacing lost appliances and furniture for another.
The coalition hired four case managers who will supervise 20 case workers. The goal is to help survivors develop and implement a recovery plan.
Case workers interview families and submit their reports to the case managers for review. The case managers then present the situation to the CDRC Unmet Needs Committee, which is made up of local and nonprofit leaders, to determine how to help the applicant. The family’s name is withheld for their protection and privacy.
By the end of February, Rogers said he wants to have helped five families with their recovery needs. Initially the unmet needs committee will meet every two weeks, then weekly, to review cases.
The CDRC has some funds, including an $11,000 surplus from the 2011 tornado disaster. And companies, senior citizens’ organizations and individuals are calling with donations, all of which are greatly appreciated, he added.
Rogers also applies for grants from foundations and organizations to assist his clients’ unmet needs. The North Carolina Community Foundation has a disaster fund of $330,000, and will award one $10,000 grant to eligible nonprofit organizations such as long-term recovery committees. Rogers plans to bundle five or six projects and apply for the grant.
Rogers has been involved with disaster relief since he was a teenager. As a Boy Scout in the mid-1980s, at age 14, he volunteered when a tornado devastated nearby counties. That experience reinforced the scout motto he knew so well, “Be Prepared.” Rogers took that to heart.
In 2009, he started a business to document people’s belongings. He gave seminars at libraries, churches, the Fayetteville Technical Community College and other places discussing safety, security and emergency preparedness. That led to his involvement with the CDRC and his eventual chairmanship.
“I’m an advocate for being prepared; education is so important,” he said. “People say ‘that will never happen to me’ or ‘that’s what I have insurance for.’ However, people feel differently when a disaster happens this close to home.”
Rogers plans to keep the coalition’s focus on preparedness year-round by attending fairs, community events and other activities where he can talk to and provide people with information.
For more information on committees and the CDRC, call 910-745-7021 (please leave a message). Information on other long-term recovery committees in North Carolina is available online at www.ncvoad.org/cms/. For more information on North Carolina’s recovery, visit fema.gov/disaster/4285 and readync.org. Follow FEMA on Twitter at @femaregion4 and North Carolina Emergency Management @NCEmergency.
What To Expect After You Apply
Once homeowners register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a FEMA housing inspector will call to schedule an inspection for those living in designated counties. Here’s what survivors need to know about the inspection process:
Everyone should know:
- The FEMA inspector will show a photo ID badge.
- If you are not shown photo identification, then do not allow the inspection.
- If you suspect someone is posing as a FEMA inspector, call your local law enforcement agency.
- You may receive visits from more than one inspector. Other inspectors may represent federal, state, parish and local government agencies, the U.S. Small Business Administration, the National Flood Insurance Program and/or insurance companies.
- Representatives of volunteer agencies may contact you to offer their services.
Before the FEMA inspection, it’s important that you know:
- An adult 18 or older who lived in the residence before the disaster must be present for the inspection.
- That person must have the following documents:
- Photo identification;
- Proof of ownership and occupancy of the damaged residence such as: property tax bill; mortgage payment bill or receipt, or utility service bill;
- Homeowner and vehicle insurance documents;
- List of persons living in residence at time of disaster that you compiled; and
- List of disaster damage to the home and its contents that you compiled.
Most important to know:
Filing A Flood Insurance Claim
If you have experienced a flood, you can file your flood insurance claim by following these three steps.
STEP ONE: NOTIFY YOUR INSURER TO START THE CLAIMS PROCESS
After experiencing a flood, contact your agent or insurance company to file a claim. Make sure you have the following information handy:
- The name of your insurance company
- Your policy number
- A telephone and/or email address where you can be reached at all times
An adjuster should contact you within a few days of filing your claim. If you do not hear from an adjuster, please contact your insurance agent or company again. Find your company’s toll-free phone number.
STEP TWO: DOCUMENT THE DAMAGE
Separate damaged from undamaged property. Your adjuster will need evidence of the damage to your home and possessions to prepare your repair estimate.
- Take photographs of all of the damaged property, including discarded objects, structural damage, and standing floodwater levels.
- Make a list of damaged or lost items and include their date of purchase, value, and receipts, if possible.
- Officials may require disposal of damaged items so, if possible, place flooded items outside of the home.
STEP THREE: COMPLETE A PROOF OF LOSS TO SUPPORT YOUR CLAIM
Your adjuster will assist you in preparing a Proof of Loss (which is your sworn statement of the amount you are claiming including necessary supporting documentation) for your official claim for damages. You'll need to file your Proof of Loss with your insurance company within 60 days of the flood. You'll receive your claim payment after you and the insurer agree on the amount of damages and the insurer has your complete, accurate, and signed Proof of Loss.
Find out more about filing your claim.
Frequently Asked Questions About Flood Insurance (Video)
After Receiving A Decision Letter
If you disagree with the decision letter you received, you can follow the below guidance to appeal the decision.
1. Read the letter carefully to find out why the decision was made.
Do you need to provide additional information?
- Insurance determination letter.
- Proof of occupancy or ownership.
- Proof of ID.
- Applicant’s signature.
Common reasons for the initial decision:
- The damage was to a secondary home or a rental property, not a primary residence.
- Someone else in the household applied and received assistance.
- Disaster-related losses could not be verifed.
- Insurance covered all losses.
2. Contact FEMA for help with ling an appeal or any questions.
- 800-621-3362 (711 or Video Relay Service available)
- 800-462-7585 (TTY)
3. File a written appeal.
- Explain why you think the decision was not correct.
- Provide supporting information and documents.
- Include your FEMA registration number on all documents.
- Sign the letter.
Mail or fax your appeal within 60 days of the decision letter date.
Beware of Fraud And Scams
After a disaster scam artists, identity thieves and other criminals may attempt to prey on vulnerable survivors. The most common post-disaster fraud practices include phony housing inspectors, fraudulent building contractors, bogus pleas for disaster donations and fake offers of state or federal aid.
Survivors should keep in mind:
- Federal and state workers never ask for, or accept money, and always carry identification badges
- There is NO FEE required to apply for or to get disaster assistance from FEMA, the U.S. Small Business Administration or the state
- Scam attempts can be made over the phone, by mail or email, text or in person
Price gouging occurs when a supplier marks up the price of an item more than is justified by his actual costs. Survivors are particularly susceptible because their needs are immediate, and have few alternatives to choose from. If you find price gouging, contact your State's Office of the Attorney General.
Dealing with Contractors:
Survivors should take steps to protect themselves and avoid fraud when hiring contractors to clean property, remove debris or make repairs.
Simple rules to avoid becoming a victim of fraud:
- Only use contractors licensed by your state
- Get a written estimate and get more than one estimate
- Demand and check references
- Ask for proof of insurance
- i.e., liability and Workmen's Compensation
- Insist on a written contract and refuse to sign a contract with blank spaces
- Get any guarantees in writing
- Make final payments only after the work is completed
- Pay by check.
The best way to avoid fraud is to arm yourself against it by having a checklist to remind you of what you need to demand when hiring a contractor.
Charitable Giving Scams
Donating money or supplies to the relief effort is another way to help survivors. Be alert to scams during an emergency. Learn more about donating.
If you are aware of a potential charity scam in a state affected by Hurricane Matthew, you can report it to that state's consumer affairs or attorney general's office:
Those who question the validity of a contact or suspect fraud are encouraged to call the toll free FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721. Complaints also may be made by contacting local law enforcement agencies.