What to Expect After Registering With FEMA

Homeowners and renters in four South Carolina counties with uninsured and underinsured losses caused by Hurricane Florence need to know what to expect when they apply for assistance with FEMA.

Hurricane Florence survivors in the designated counties will need the following to apply for assistance

* Social Security Number;
* Daytime telephone number;
* Current mailing address and address and ZIP Code of the damaged property; and
* Insurance information, if available.

To check eligibility for federal, state and voluntary agency disaster assistance survivors can visit DisasterAssistance.gov or call 800-621-3362 (800-462-7785 TTY). Multilingual operators are available (press 2 for Spanish).

After registering with FEMA, a survivor may be contacted by a FEMA-contracted housing inspector to schedule an inspection to verify disaster-related damage. The inspection generally takes about 20-40 minutes. The inspector will want to see the damaged areas of the home and any damaged furniture and personal property. There is no fee for the inspection.

If the home was found to be inaccessible at the time of inspection, the applicant is required to let FEMA know when the home is accessible and request a new inspection. To update the status of an uninhabitable dwelling applicants should call the disaster assistance Helpline at 800-621-3362. Once the status of the home is updated and the survivor has requested a new inspection, a FEMA-contracted inspector will contact the applicant to schedule the inspection.

On the day of the inspection, applicants should ask the inspector to show a FEMA photo ID badge. If an inspector refuses to show FEMA photo identification, do not allow the inspection. Disasters often bring out scam artists who prey on the needs of disaster survivors.
Someone 18 years of age or older must be present during the inspection. The inspector will also ask to see:
* Photo identification;
* Proof of ownership/occupancy of damaged residence (tax bill, mortgage payment book, rental agreement or utility bill);
* Insurance documents (homeowner’s or renter’s insurance and/or an auto insurance policy summary);
* List of people living in the residence at the time of disaster; and
* All disaster-related damages to both real and personal property.

Once the inspection process is complete, FEMA will review the case and send a letter to the applicant outlining a decision.

If an applicant is eligible for a FEMA assistance, FEMA will send funds via check by mail or direct deposit into the survivor’s bank account. If a survivor receives money for rental assistance, the survivor must keep documentation and receipts of payments made and have a written landlord/tenant agreement for the time frame for which assistance is provided.

If an applicant is not eligible for FEMA assistance, FEMA will send a letter explaining why the applicant was determined ineligible. The applicant should read this letter carefully. Many times ineligibility is due to FEMA not having important information, such as an insurance settlement letter, proof of ownership or proof of occupancy. Applicants have 60 days to appeal a FEMA decision. The appeal process is detailed in the letter.

After registering for disaster assistance, survivors may be asked to fill out a low-interest disaster loan application with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA offers low-interest disaster loans for businesses and nonprofit organizations of all sizes, homeowners and renters. Completing a home loan application makes it possible to be considered for additional assistance. Applicants do not have to accept the loan if they qualify.

SBA applicants may apply online at DisasterLoan.sba.gov. Information about low-interest SBA disaster loans and application forms are available online at SBA.gov/disaster or by calling 800-659-2955 (TTY users call 800-877-8339) or via email to DisasterCustomerService@sba.gov. Call SBA at 800-659-2955 to have an application mailed to you.

FEMA assistance may include help to pay for: temporary housing, emergency home repairs and rental assistance; medical, dental and funeral expenses; essential personal property; or miscellaneous immediate need items.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is unable to duplicate insurance payments. However, those without insurance or those who may be underinsured may still receive help after their insurance claims have been settled.


Don’t Let the Dangers of Mold Grow

Mold is a serious issue that can impact your health and home after a weather event that brought water into your home. Mold is caused by excess moisture and standing water inside your home. Steps can be taken to prevent mold growth if wet items are cleaned and dried within 24 to 48 hours. Make sure you only enter your home once it is safe.

Signs of Mold:
Mold can be recognized by sight or smell or present no signs at all (hidden behind walls or under floors)

  • Sight (Mold growth often appears on walls and ceilings, looks like spots and can be many different colors)
  • Smell (You may smell a strong unpleasant musty, earthy odor)

People at Greatest Risk for Health Effects from Mold:

  • If you are allergic to mold, or you have asthma, allergies, or other breathing conditions, being around mold may make your condition worse.
  • If you have a chronic lung condition or a weak immune system (such as people with HIV infection, cancer patients taking chemotherapy, and people who have received an organ transplant), you could be more susceptible to mold infections in your lungs.

Possible Health Effects of Mold Exposure:

  • People who are sensitive to mold may have a stuffy nose, irritated eyes, wheezing, or skin irritation.
  • People who are allergic to mold may have difficulty breathing or have shortness of breath.
  • People with weakened immune systems or chronic lung diseases may develop mold infections in their lungs.

If you or your family members have health problems after exposure to mold and you think that mold is affecting your health, please contact your doctor or other health care provider.

Cleaning Wet or Moldy Items after a Severe Weather Event:

When your home is safe to enter, dry out your home as quickly as possible to minimize mold problems and perhaps even prevent the growth of mold at all.

Water damage specialists or mold remediation companies have experience with cleanups of flooded homes and can provide you the peace of mind of knowing mold problems will be properly taken care of. At a minimum, a maintenance or service professional that is experienced in mold clean up should check and clean your home heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) system before you turn it on. If the HVAC system was flooded with water, turning on the system may spread mold throughout the house.

If you choose to perform clean up yourself, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers the following information:

  • To protect yourself from potential exposure to mold, buy an N-95 or N-100 mask at your local home supply store and wear it while cleaning your home (an ordinary dust mask or handkerchief will not protect you from the mold)
  • Hard-surfaced, non-porous items which do not absorb water can be cleaned using soap and water and disinfected with a bleach solution of no more than 1/2 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water. ( Never mix bleach with other household cleaners. Mixing bleach and ammonia can produce dangerous toxic fumes ). Nonporous materials include tile floors, countertops, showers, tubs, metal objects, plastic, glass, and other hard nonabsorbent materials and surfaces.
  • Porous materials soak up water like a sponge. Items that cannot be dried thoroughly within 24-48 hours of getting wet are much more difficult to disinfect and may need to be replaced to prevent mold growth. Porous items include wood, drywall, carpet, mattresses, fabrics, and furniture made of particle board.
  • Ensure that wood studs are completely dry prior to re-installing wallboard. If the wood is not completely dry, more mold can start growing behind the new wallboard.
    Use plastic to shield areas adjacent to where you are working so that spores disturbed by the clean-up don’t become reattached to a new substrate and grow. This includes sealing off nearby HVAC ducts, which often have sources of moisture and food for spores to grow.

For more information, click here.

How to stay connected during this time

Did you know that smartphones can be a lifeline for you in a natural disaster? Not only will it get you the help you need, it will also make it possible to stay  connected with friends and family during  and after a disaster happens. The key is, as with most things, is to be prepared. You don’t want to be frantically downloading the Red Cross first aid app with 5% battery and a spotty cell connections after the power is out. Download, charge, login, set up all the devices and apps before.

From walkie-talkie app Zello to messaging app FireChat, which works offline, here’s how to get your mobile device ready ahead of the storm.

  • Charge your phone and any old ones
  • Use low-power mode
  • Install Zello, FireChat and Glympse for communication
  • Download offline Google Maps
  • Enable emergency push alerts

Prep your phone

Smartphones run through batteries fast. Without some restraint and backup plans, it could drain even faster during a storm when you’re constantly checking for updates.

Fully charge your main phone and any extra phones you have lying around in drawers. You could use them to call 911 or swap in your SIM card to do more. For backup power, charge any power packs you have, as well as laptops. In a pinch, you can charge a phone off of a laptop. Make sure you also have your cords ready, including one that can plug into a car — another power source.

Many newer smartphones have some level of waterproofing, but if you’re headed out into bad weather or someplace at risk of flooding, pop it in a Ziploc bag or two.

To stretch out the battery life, turn on low power mode, dim the brightness, and turn off any unnecessary notifications. You can see which apps use the most power in Settings. Close them and avoid reopening unless necessary.

Install apps

After Hurricane Harvey, locals and unofficial rescue crews used some lesser known tools to locate people in need. Consider installing Zello a walkie-talkie app that lets you share audio messages and photos. You can create new channels or join existing ones — there are several already about Hurricane Florence — to communicate with others in the area and ask for help. But the free app requires a Wi-Fi or network connection (even older networks like 2G will work).

Meanwhile, FireChat is another messaging app that works without data or a signal, and instead relies on mesh networks. (But Bluetooth and W-Fi need to be turned on even if access isn’t available, according to the company).

The SCEMD has developed an emergency app that comes with pretty much all you will need for before, during and after a storm to know how to stay safe.

Glympse is a real-time location sharing app that complements Zello and FireChat. After using the apps’ messaging capabilities, Glympse users can share their exact whereabouts with rescue groups.

Airbnb’s Open Homes program helps those in need of shelter with people who want to list rooms or homes for free. You can also check out the SCEMD’s website for a list of shelters to meet your needs.

Finally, install a few of the Red Cross apps, which can offer first aid relief to both humans and pets.

Bookmark the basics

Go to your state emergency management or department of public safety site. Bookmark its main information page for the storm, and download any app they might have. While you are there, follow them on Twitter. Then do the same for your county and city or town.

Save your local emergency phone numbers to your phone, in case you can make phone calls but not search at a later time. Also bookmark pages for the National Hurricane Center, your local weather source, and FEMA.

Check online to see if your local 911 call centers can receive texts in an emergency. Texts can take longer to get a response, however. If you can’t get through to 911 on the phone, keep holding instead of hanging up and dialing again. If you do put out a call for help on social media, be sure to update it when you are safe.

You can also bookmark the webpages for Google’s Crisis Maps, which can show useful emergency information and shelter locations. Add CrowdSource Rescue, a site that tries to match people in need with neighbors who can help, and streamline emergency requests sent out over different social media platforms. Developed during Hurricane Harvey, the site was responsible for rescuing 25,000 in Houston, according to its creators.

And if you’re in the path of the storm and need the latest news, CNN has a “lite” version of CNN.com, with text-only versions of articles that can be more easily accessed even with a weak phone connection.

Get push alerts

Go to your phone’s settings and make sure emergency alerts are enabled for extreme threats and severe threats. The government can push these alert, which may include an evacuation order, to phones in regions via the WEA (wireless emergency alerts) system.

Stock up on maps

Maps can be a data hog. The Google Maps app lets you download entire maps for your area to your phone. On Android or iOS, search for your city and tap the more option (three dots), then tap “Download offline map.” Install the Waze navigation app if you think you’ll be driving and want to avoid unexpected road closures or accidents.

Sittin’ in the dark, what do you do now?

Yes, of course you have a flashlight. But do you know where it is? Could you find it in the dark? Do you have extra batteries? Or a rechargeable (and fully charged) flashlight? Have a back up generator? You will still need to have a flashlight on hand to help find your way.

We suggest having a special box that you keep fresh batteries, charging stations and flashlights in – if they are rechargeable, keep them charged. You never know when you will need them.

Think about how you and your family may react to being in the dark. Being in the dark can be a scary experience for children. Turn it into a game by playing “lights-out” when you have plenty of light so they learn how to find the flashlight stash in the dark. Stick a flashlight or headlamp in an empty clear, plastic jug to make a lamp that lights up a lot more than the small light on its own could.

Candles are a great (and romantic!) backup. But remember, safety first. Candles are open flames and can be potentially dangerous. Make sure your candle holders are sturdy.

Caught sitting in the dark with no flashlights or candles? Got a craft box? Break out the crayons and place in an upright position with a sturdy base that won’t catch on fire. A new crayon will burn for about 30 minutes. Feeling extra crafty since you have all the time on your hands now that you’re in the dark? Home-made candles can also be made by soaking a string or rope in olive oil. Even an orange can be turned into a candle.

So now that you’re no longer in the dark, take your flashlight (or crayon candle) and go investigate the cause of the outage if you don’t already know it (if its storming, then the cause is probably a downed power-line, in that case don’t go outside in the storm).

If  its not storming and the lights go off, the first thing to do is determine whether it is really a power outage or a problem with your own breaker. Check your main electric panel. If you have blown a fuse or tripped a breaker, one or more of the switches may be turned off. Simply turn it back on and power should be restored.

If it is not a fuse or a breaker, check to see whether that power is out for your neighbors, too. Power can be lost in a very localized area. For instance, houses that are served by the same pole-mounted power transformer will be dark, while houses next door are fully lit.

If it is an outage, call your utility company and report it. Sometimes it can be hard to get through because other customers are also reporting interruptions. Please be patient. It is likely they already know about the problem and are working to fix it.

Did you know that while cordless phones or extension phones that require connection to an electric outlet will not work during power outages, but models that only need to be plugged into the phone jack will work? Also, your cellphone should work if you have the capability and data to call.

Another thing to do is to go around and turn off  and unplug your appliance that were running during the time of the outage.

Why? Here are three reasons:

  • Protecting your appliances: When power returns, there will be a surge of electrical energy that could damage sensitive equipment like computers, laptops, or televisions.
  • Safety: It is easy to forget during an outage that you had a stove burner or an iron on. If you’re away from home when electric service is restored, you can have a serious safety hazard.
  • Helping your utility to restore service: Restarting appliances can use almost double the amount of electricity that they use when running normally. Think of the way lights dim briefly when the A/C fan comes on. Then imagine the power demands placed on the electric system when every customer needs more power than usual – all at the same time. When the main switches are re-energized, this demand can cause breakers to trip. It helps if you don’t have all your appliances waiting to draw power the instant it is restored.

There are two options for how to turn off your appliances, both with advantages and disadvantages:

  • The first option is to unplug them one by one, leaving one light on to let you know electricity has been restored. However, it is easy to miss an appliance, and awkward to get around in the dark.
  • The second option is to turn off your main circuit breaker. This ensures that you will not overlook anything. It does mean you will have to keep an eye on streetlights outside to let you know that power has been restored.

Other tips:

  • If the outage is likely to be prolonged, and the weather is hot, prepare to stay cool as your house heats up:
    • Drink plenty of water – your body stays cool more efficiently when well hydrated.
    • Keep an eye on young children and the elderly for signs of heat exhaustion. Call 9-1-1 in case of a medical emergency.
    • The basement is often cooler than the rest of the house, so you may want to gather your family there.
    • Dress in loose, light clothing.
    • Draw drapes or cover south-facing windows with blankets to keep heat out. However, you still need ventilation, especially if regular cold-air intake systems are not working. Keep a window open slightly for a breeze.
  • While it may be tempting, do not run extension cords to the home of a neighbor who still has power. It is a fire hazard.
  • The choice to install a standby generator is yours. However, this equipment can be extremely dangerous if it is not connected properly and operated knowledgeably.
  • Residential consumers probably do not need a standby generator to cope with shorter outages. For a prolonged outage, you have the additional headache of storing enough fuel to operate it.

Skip the milk, bread and eggs, get these things instead.

Whenever a storm hits, people rush to the store and empty the shelves of three things…milk, bread and eggs. But believe it or not, you should NOT include those in your disaster prep.

Follow this information from Ready.gov so you will be prepared for whatever type of storm is headed your way.

Make sure your emergency kit is stocked with the items on the checklist below. Most of the items are inexpensive and easy to find, and any one of them could save your life. Headed to the store? Once you take a look at the basic items, consider what unique needs your family might have, such as supplies for pets, or seniors.
After an emergency, you may need to survive on your own for several days. Being prepared means having your own food, water and other supplies to last for at least 72 hours. A disaster supplies kit is a collection of basic items your household may need in the event of an emergency.
Basic Disaster Supplies Kit
To assemble your kit, store items in airtight plastic bags and put your entire disaster supplies kit in one or two easy-to-carry containers such as plastic bins or a duffel bag.
A basic emergency supply kit could include the following recommended items:

  • Water – one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food – at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
  • Flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Extra batteries
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps

Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery

Additional Emergency Supplies
Consider adding the following items to your emergency supply kit based on your individual needs:

  • Non-prescription medications such as pain relievers, anti-diarrhea medication, antacids or laxatives
  • Prescription medications
  • Glasses and contact lens solution
  • Infant formula, bottles, diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream
  • Pet food and extra water for your pet
  • Cash or traveler’s checks
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records saved electronically or in a waterproof, portable container
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person
  • Complete change of clothing appropriate for your climate and sturdy shoes
  • Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper to disinfect water
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels and plastic utensils
  • Paper and pencil
  • Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children

Maintaining Your Kit

After assembling your kit remember to maintain it so it’s ready when needed:

  • Keep canned food in a cool, dry place
  • Store boxed food in tightly closed plastic or metal containers
  • Replace expired items as needed
  • Re-think your needs every year and update your kit as your family’s needs change.

Kit Storage Locations

Since you do not know where you will be when an emergency occurs, prepare supplies for home, work and vehicles.

  • Home: Keep this kit in a designated place and have it ready in case you have to leave your home quickly. Make sure all family members know where the kit is kept.
  • Work: Be prepared to shelter at work for at least 24 hours. Your work kit should include food, water and other necessities like medicines, as well as comfortable walking shoes, stored in a “grab and go” case.
  • Vehicle: In case you are stranded, keep a kit of emergency supplies in your car.