FEMA makes disaster assistance available to people with disabilities
by Staff Report
May 24, 2011 | 2094 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Recent tornadoes in Georgia destroyed homes and disrupted lives on an equal opportunity basis. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is working to ensure that all disaster survivors, including people with functional needs or disabilities, have an equal opportunity to recover.

"Disasters negatively affect everyone in the community, but individuals with disabilities may encounter unexpected barriers along the road to receiving recovery assistance," said Gracia Szczech, federal coordinating officer for FEMA. "Our goal is to be certain everyone, including persons with disabilities, has accurate and accessible information about available federal and state recovery programs."

To achieve this goal, FEMA coordinates efforts with state and local agencies as well as volunteer organizations to identify needs and locate appropriate resources. Some of the areas addressed by FEMA and partner organizations include communication, physical access to facilities and program availability. For example, brochures are translated into Braille, access ramps provide entry into shelters and assistance is offered to fill out forms.

FEMA has a Disability Integration Specialist on site in Georgia to coordinate the various elements of the programs, such as:

* Information is provided in alternate formats, including Braille, American Sign Language and by TTY.

* Individuals with hearing or speech disabilities who use a Text Telephone (TTY) may contact the disaster assistance hotline by calling 1-800-462-7585.

* Individuals who use a videophone may use the Georgia Relay Service to contact the disaster assistance hotline at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).

* Disaster Recovery Centers are physically accessible for individuals with mobility disabilities.

* Reasonable modifications to policies and programs are made as needed.

The statewide Emergency Preparedness Coalition for individuals with disabilities and for older adults is working with FEMA to identify and provide access and functional needs assistance. The EPC network focuses on providing emergency preparedness technical guidance and assistance to organizations that service individuals with disabilities and older adults.

FEMA takes active steps to ensure that the whole community, including people with disabilities, elders and people with low English proficiency, has the same opportunity to benefit from emergency3 programs, services and activities.

"FEMA's goal is to make the process of recovery available equally to everyone," Szczech said.

For preparedness resources for individuals with disabilities or to learn more about FEMA's commitment to integrating the needs of individuals with functional needs into all aspects of emergency management, visit www.fema.gov/about/odic.

Mitigation funds are available from the U.S. Small Business Administration for approved borrowers with damage to their real estate property. Borrowers already approved for a loan may request an increase of up to 20 percent of their physical loan amount to help fund mitigation measures to assist them with their long-term recovery needs.

Mitigation funds can be used to subsidize a project that protects against future damage from the same type of occurrence. Borrowers requesting hazard mitigation funds are asked to submit a proposal that describes the mitigation measure to be installed, along with a cost estimate of the project.

Mitigation proposals should be mailed to the U.S. Small Business Administration Disaster Area Office that processed their original loan request. For additional information about SBA's hazard mitigation, borrowers should call the SBA Customer Service Center at 800-359-2227.

Through Thursday, FEMA mitigation specialists are available to offer Georgians free disaster-resistance rebuilding advice from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Home Depot Stores, including the Cartersville location, 100 Gentil St., Cartersville.

Georgia Red Cross

transitions statewide

tornado response

As Georgians impacted by the recent tornadoes move forward with their recovery, the American Red Cross is transitioning its three-week long statewide, emergency relief operation to local community chapters.

Anyone who needs information on Red Cross tornado relief services in Bartow County is urged to call the Northwest Georgia Chapter, which serves Bartow, Catoosa, Chatooga, Dade, Floyd, Gordon, Murray, Polk, Walker and Whitfield counties, at 706-291-6648, as the Red Cross statewide Tornado Call Center has closed.

"We look forward to continuing to assist those who still need our help," said Sara Hicks-West, director of the Georgia Red Cross Tornado relief operation.

Red Cross Response as of May 15 in Bartow County:

* 418 Red Cross volunteers and staff in hard-hit areas of Georgia worked with community partners to provide shelter, meals, health and mental health services, clean-up supplies, and other recovery resources.

* 3,615 meals have been served in Bartow County and 4,360 snacks have been distributed.

* 14 people were provided health services in Bartow County by Red Cross nurses.