RIDGELAND, Miss. – March 28, 2016 – (RealEstateRama) — Natural disasters are equal-opportunity when they pick their targets. In assisting survivors, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency/Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster recovery centers are just as impartial.
Centers are now open in disaster-designated counties to help homeowners, renters and business owners affected by the severe storms and flooding in Mississippi that occurred March 9-29. Reaching everyone in the whole community is a key objective. Successful outreach relies on assuring universal access, reasonable accommodation and accessible communication to all people, with or without disabilities.
FEMA provides interpreters and suitable technology and procedures to give the most individuals access to the disaster assistance information available at disaster recovery centers, which are run jointly by MEMA and FEMA.
The centers offer a comprehensive range of assistance for survivors, including help with FEMA registration, assisting businesses, homeowners and renters in applying for loans from the Small Business Administration, and providing overall guidance and solutions for recovery. Staff can answer survivors’ questions on the status of applications, housing assistance and available rental resources, and obtain referrals to agencies that may provide further assistance.
Representatives of state and federal agencies are present to explain the various government programs designed to help survivors recover. Local and national support groups, such as the American Red Cross, may also be on hand.
Visiting a center, survivors with access and functional needs find a fully accessible environment, from the parking lot and entrance to the restrooms and technology, with a staff trained to be aware of survivors’ needs and able to demonstrate the use of assistive equipment.
“Our inspection teams make certain that each center is entirely accessible before it opens and that all members of the community can come and get what they need. The goal is universal accessibility,” said FEMA Disability Integration advisor John Daly.
For those who are blind/low vision, each center is equipped with magnifiers, plus braille and large-print editions of FEMA’s recovery publication Help After a Disaster. For those who are deaf/hard-of-hearing,
the centers offer various assisted listening devices and three different types of telephones: a caption phone with a visual read-out of the conversation, a TTY phone and an iPad with translation software that uses VRI (Video Remote Interpreting) to interface with an American Sign Language interpreter.
The best way for survivors with access and functional needs to make sure they receive full access to the entire range of support the center provides, including ASL interpreters, is to call the FEMA helpline at 800-621-3362 to express their preferences and any reasonable accommodations to the center’s manager before they visit. Those who use 711/VRS, can call 800-621-3362. Survivors who are deaf, hard of hearing or who have speech disabilities may call TTY 800-462-7585.
Survivors can locate the nearest center by visiting fema.gov/drc or by calling the FEMA helpline. They can also register by calling the helpline or online at DisasterAssistance.gov. Helpline hours are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time, seven days a week until further notice.
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.
All FEMA disaster assistance will be provided without discrimination on the grounds of race, color, sex (including sexual harassment), religion, national origin, age, disability, limited English proficiency, economic status, or retaliation. If you believe your civil rights are being violated, call 800-621-3362 or 800-462-7585(TTY/TDD).
FEMA’s temporary housing assistance and grants for public transportation expenses, medical and dental expenses, and funeral and burial expenses do not require individuals to apply for an SBA loan. However, applicants who receive SBA loan applications must submit them to SBA loan officers to be eligible for assistance that covers personal property, vehicle repair or replacement, and moving and storage expenses.