Bartow County meets approval for Disaster Recovery Center
by Shaka S. Lias
May 05, 2011 | 2263 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In a meeting Wednesday afternoon, representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that Bartow County could soon receive a Disaster Recovery Center to assist with the tornado that hit on April 27.

Chief Craig Millsap with the Bartow County Fire Department, spoke on behalf of Johnny Payne, Emergency Management Agency director, who was out in the field assisting victims.

Millsap said a building has been looked at and met the approval of FEMA.

"We're just waiting to hear back from the DRC manager who would be assigned about setting it up and making sure everything else is good," Millsap said.

He said although they don't have an exact date, that is a starting place.

Meanwhile, Michael Murphy, Community Relations with FEMA, explained how FEMA works when they assist with disasters.

Murphy said the first thing is they have to be invited into an area.

"FEMA does not come in until the county declares a disaster, the state declares a disaster and the state appeals to the president and then the president declares it a disaster," he said.

Murphy explained they are guests of the state. "You don't want the federal government just coming in and taking over."

Murphy said FEMA offers assistance after other entities have delivered theirs.

He said immediately after a storm the charities tend to kick in right away. They assist with the immediate needs of the individual. After the charities, the homeowners, if they are insured, they have to settle with their insurance agencies first.

"Regardless, if you are insured or not, go ahead and call FEMA and give them your information and apply," Murphy said.

"Once [an individual] has settled with the insurance company, [they need to] then bring the letter of settlement [to FEMA]. We look at the case and decide what else we can help with," Murphy said.

There are two types of initial assistance for the uninsured. One is housing assistance. If anyone was displaced as a result of the storm or mandatory evacuation FEMA may be able to assist in rental assistance, hotels, or home repairs, Murphy said. They also can help with replacing a home, but it's a long shot.

Murphy stresses the importance of calling FEMA at 1-800-621-FEMA. The call consists of around 20 minutes of answering questions, afterward a nine digit number is assigned to the individual. That number confirms that the person is registered with FEMA. After that hey should be contacted by a FEMA representative within two weeks.

Murphy said once recovery centers in the area are open, people can go directly to those sites.

Murphy addressed rumors about FEMA and local organizations, saying they have no control over volunteer agencies.

"They are in here on their own and we don't tell them what to do. They work with us, but we don't confiscate anything," Murphy said.

" We're not in the business of taking in money, we're in the business of making sure it goes out," he said.

He also warned about scammers. There are always people out taking advantage of people in trouble," he said.

Murphy said FEMA will never call and ask for personal information, such as social security numbers or bank accounts.

"If anybody calls you and asks for personal information, do not give it to them, it's not FEMA," he said.

Sheriff Clark Millsap added, all federal agents have very distinctive badges.

"Anybody that represents themselves as being a federal agent, we can lock them up for impersonating an officer or a federal employee," Millsap said.

He advises reporting any suspicious people to the police.

"We don't have much room in the jail, but at a time like this we will find room," he said.

Murphy said FEMA badges are visibly displayed, no one should have to ask to see it.

To date, Chief Millsap said 367 homes were damaged in the storm, of that, 48 were totally destroyed.

Millsap said he expects the numbers of damaged homes to go up a bit. He has recently received calls about areas damaged during the storm he wasn't aware of.

Millsap encourages everyone to report damages, severe or not.

"If we don't know, then we can't help," he said. Meanwhile, firemen are going door to door to get information in those areas.

Commissioner Clarence Brown also was in attendance at the meeting, thanking FEMA for their information. FEMA is also requesting that people with special needs, physically or mentally and having language barriers, call 1-800-621-FEMA. The United Way hotline for immediate help is 211.