WASHINGTON, D.C. -- With hundreds of thousands of Hurricane Katrina victims finding themselves far from home in shelters, temporary quarters or with friends and families, FEMA is here to provide a first step towards a return to normalcy, through a toll-free number or an online application. The Department of Homeland Security encourages everyone who was adversely affected by the storm to call FEMA's toll-free teleregistration line at 1-800-621-FEMA or register online at: www.fema.gov. The hearing or speech impaired may call TTY 1-800-462-7585. This all-important first contact is essential to access FEMA's expedited assistance and individual assistance programs.
So far more than 400,000 people have registered for assistance by phone and online. More than 3,000 people are working around-the-clock to take these calls, and in the days ahead, these numbers will increase dramatically. Calling during non-peak hours or even between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. may help avoid busy tones. When possible, callers should be able to provide a call-back number, social security number, insurance information and bank account codes, but call center staff are trained to work around missing information. The key is to call or log-on.
Expedited assistance includes food, shelter, clothing and other necessities, and individual assistance programs range from alternative housing and financial assistance, grants to replace personal property and help meet medical needs, to unemployment payments and low-interest loans. But it all starts with that first call or online visit.
FEMA prepares the nation for all hazards and manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates mitigation activities, trains first responders, works with state and local emergency managers, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.