FEMA comes to Washington

Published 11:44 pm Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Staff Writer

A recent, but temporary, addition to Beaufort County is a Disaster Recovery Center field office for the Federal Emergency Management Agency located on North Market Street.
While disaster recovery information can be located on FEMA’s website, www.fema.gov, many feel more comfortable sitting down with a FEMA public information officer and discussing their options.
Susan Greatorex, FEMA public information officer, wants Beaufort County to understand the ways in which FEMA can help during times of need when disasters happen, as with the recent flooding.
“FEMA supports the state in providing disaster assistance,” Greatorex said. “The governor requests assistance, telling the president that the recovery is beyond what state and local agencies can do to recover. Then the president makes a disaster declaration, which came on Oct. 14, after the governor made a request on Oct. 7.”
The counties being helped by FEMA from the flooding are Beaufort, Bertie, Craven, Onslow, Tyrell and Hertford counties. Four additional counties were designated for disaster assistance Tuesday as part of North Carolina’s federal disaster declaration: Brunswick, Jones, Pender and Pitt.
According to Greatorex, when a person calls FEMA for disaster relief aide, FEMA gathers information and the case is assigned to an inspector who will assess the property in question to verify damages.
“There are so many ways FEMA can assist in helping residents cope with flooding – before, during and after,” Greatorex said. “One of the most important things that people can do before a flood, for financial protection, is to purchase a flood insurance policy. Because not all homeowner insurance policies cover flood damage.”
Greatorex added that homeowners should not wait until a flood comes to purchase a policy because it normally takes 30 days for the policy to go into effect.
“Many people think they don’t need flood insurance because they believe flood disaster assistance will come to their aid,” she said. “But floods are not always declared a federal disaster.”
Additionally, FEMA states that disaster assistance is money or direct assistance to individuals, families and businesses in an area whose property has been damaged or destroyed and whose losses are not covered by insurance.
“It’s meant to help people with critical expenses that cannot be covered in other ways,” she said. “This assistance is not intended to restore damaged property to its condition before the disaster.
“While some housing assistance funds are available through our Individuals and Households Program, most disaster assistance from the federal government is in the form of loans administered by the Small Business Administration.”
She added that disaster assistance can be in the form of money, grants that are available to individuals, and loans are made available to small businesses and individuals.
“Grants are not given to businesses, but loans are,” she said.
Greatorex added that it was County Manager Paul Spruill who wanted to bring a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center field office to Beaufort County and to participate in any way possible to help.
“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,” Greatorex said.
FEMA’s temporary housing assistance and grants for disaster-related medical and dental expenses and funeral and burial expenses do not require individuals to apply for an SBA loan. However, those who receive SBA loan applications must complete and submit them to SBA to be eligible for assistance that covers personal property, vehicle repair or replacement, and moving and storage expenses.
Plans are underway for a public meeting at Beaufort County Community College for anyone who needs help for disaster relief. The meeting will be held in either Building 8 or 10.
FEMA Disaster Recovery Center
LOCATION: 249 N. Market Street, Washington
HOURS: 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Sunday through Saturday.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: Log on to FEMA’s website, www.fema.gov, or call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). For the hearing impaired, 1-800-462-7585. Victims can also log on to www.disasterassistance.gov for help and support as well.