FEMA has identified this storm as one of historic proportions and it will take weeks if not months to fully and accurately assess the impact. FEMA is taking an “all hands on deck” approach as many employees have been re-assigned from their
offices in Washington, DC and elsewhere to provide on the ground assistance in the gulf region. Although not mentioned as frequently as FEMA, the Small Business Administration (SBA) also provides assistance through www.disasterassitance.gov; sadly, residents of Texas and Louisiana are still not entirely out of harm’s way. The latest information as provided by FEMA is available on their website www.fema.gov. A condensed version is provided below.
More than 230 state, local, and community shelters are open across the affected and surrounding areas and as of this morning more than 32,000 disaster survivors are currently in shelters. Download the FEMA mobile app (available in English and Spanish) for registration information, directions to open shelters, a customizable checklist of emergency supplies, disaster survival tips, and weather alerts from the National Weather Service. The app also enables users to receive push notifications reminding them to take important steps to prepare their homes and families for disasters.
More than 90,000 individuals have been approved for assistance with FEMA. Residents and business owners should apply for assistance by registering through the mobile app or online at www.disasterassistance.gov. If you do not have access to the internet, you can register by phone at 800-621-3362. You have 60 days after a declaration to register for FEMA disaster assistance.
More than 7,900 survivors have checked in to hotels and motels through the Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) program which has been approved in Texas for eligible disaster survivors who have a continuing need for shelter because they are unable to return to their homes for an extended period of time. To be eligible for TSA, you must be registered for FEMA disaster assistance. This initiative is intended to provide short-term lodging for eligible disaster survivors whose communities are either uninhabitable or inaccessible due to disaster-related damage. FEMA will contact you if you are eligible for the program. A listing of available properties under this program can be found at www.femaevachotels.com.
FEMA established Incident Support Bases (ISB) near Seguin, Texas, Camp Beauregard, Louisiana, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana to ensure supplies including water, meals, blankets and other resources are closer to affected areas and are available for distribution to state, tribal, and local officials. State, local, and tribal officials are responsible for distributing supplies to the community.
More than 7.4 million meals, 8.2 million liters of water, and thousands of cots and blankets remain available at ISBs for transfer to the states of Texas and Louisiana should they be needed and requested.
Additional Mobile Emergency Response Support (MERS) personnel and equipment are on the ground in Texas and Louisiana to support the states with secure and non-secure voice, video and information services for emergency response communications needs.
FEMA has more than 1,100 Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) personnel working to save lives in south Texas. FEMA US&R teams have conducted rescues for more than 3,800 survivors. Overall, more than 3,500 FEMA employees and more than 21,000 total federal staff are working in support of Tropical Storm Harvey response.
United States Coast Guard (USCG) is using shallow-draft vessels to provide search and rescue assistance in flooded areas, while Coast Guard aircrews conduct damage assessment overflights and search and rescue patrols. USCG has rescued more than 6,000 survivors. Additional surge boat resources are deployed to Texas from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Department of the Interior (DOI). National Guard personnel have rescued or assisted more than 4,400 residents by ground and air with more than 300 animals rescued in the affected areas.
Family and friends of those in the affected areas are urged to check social network sites like Facebook or Twitter for information about your loved ones, or use the American Red Cross’s Safe and Well program, to let family members know they are safe, or looking for loved ones.
FEMA is authorized to provide emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety or to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in the designated areas under the Public Assistance program at 75 percent federal funding. Direct Federal Assistance may be included in a state or tribal request when they lack a capability to perform or contract for debris removal, emergency protective measures, emergency communications, or emergency public transportation.
If you evacuated and have not yet returned to your home, call your insurance company. To file a flood insurance claim under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), contact your insurance agent immediately. You can also call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) – select option 2 – to learn more about your policy, and be directed to the appropriate claims resource. As of today, over 37,000 claims have been submitted in Texas.
The NFIP is authorizing advance payments of NFIP claims to expedite recovery If you have NFIP flood insurance and suffered damage during the recent floods related to Hurricane Harvey, you may be eligible to receive up to $5,000 for building and contents damages prior to the adjuster’s inspection with an advance payment request agreement signed by you. If you have photos and receipts which validate your out-of-pocket expense, you may receive an advance payment up to $10,000. If the flood insurance adjuster has inspected your loss, you have significant damage, and a copy of your contractor’s estimate, and you may receive a larger advance payment based on the estimated covered loss.
Expedited rental assistance has been approved in Texas for eligible disaster survivors. Due to the size of the disaster, FEMA is using coastal depth and riverine flooding data to identify damaged homes, so survivors can get funds quickly and begin making decisions regarding their temporary housing solutions.
Critical Needs Assistance (CNA) has been approved for eligible survivors in the state of Texas. CNA is intended for individuals and households who, as a result of the disaster, have immediate or critical needs because they are displaced from their primary home. Immediate or critical needs include, but aren’t limited to, water, food, first aid, prescriptions, infant formula, diapers, consumable medical supplies, durable medical equipment, personal hygiene items, and fuel for transportation. CNA is a one-time, limited payment per household for eligible applicants who register for FEMA assistance.
Disaster Unemployment Assistance benefits are available to those whose jobs were affected by Tropical Storm Harvey in Texas, specifically those who live or work in the counties included in the major disaster declaration. This may include people not normally eligible for unemployment benefits, such as self-employed persons and farm-workers.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA) has activated its Disaster Distress helpline. This toll-free, multilingual, crisis support service is available 24/7 via telephone (800-985-5990) and SMS (text ‘TalkWithUs’ to 66746) to survivors who are experiencing emotional distress.
People can help by visiting nvoad.org to donate or volunteer with the voluntary or charitable organization of their choice, many of which are already in south Texas and Louisiana supporting survivors, even as the rain and wind continue.
The Emergency System for Advance Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals (ESAR-VHP) is a program in Department of Health and Human Services/Office of the Assistant Secretary of Preparedness (HHS/ASPR) which was created to establish a national network of state-based volunteer registration programs for disasters and public health emergencies. ESAR-VHP volunteers include primarily health professionals; however, other public health and non-health professionals can also register and fill vital positions. The program verifies health professionals’ identification and credentials in advance, saving valuable time in emergency situations. There are over 278,000 registered volunteers across the country.
The Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) is a program in HHS/ASPR which supports a national network of community-based groups of volunteers—medical and public health professional and others—who assist their communities in activities that promote and strengthen public health, emergency response, and community resiliency. There are nearly 1,000 MRC units with 200,000 volunteers across the country, and several Texas-based MRC units are activated and providing support there in Texas already.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is conducting flood-fighting activities such as stockpiling and issuing flood-fighting materials (sandbags and materials/fabrics that keep soil in place) to local government entities in an effort to mitigate the effects of flooding in the affected areas. USACE is conducting releases from the Addicks and Barker Dams in Houston, Texas to most effectively manage risk. Releasing smaller amounts of water from the dams, now, decreases the amount of water that will eventually flow through emergency spillways around the dams.
On August 26, 2017 HHS Secretary Tom Price declared a public health emergency in Texas in response to Tropical Storm Harvey to provide greater flexibility in meeting emergency health needs. HHS also has more than 500 medical professionals deployed from the National Disaster Medical System and U.S. Public Health Service, and an additional 1,000 professionals on alert to provide medical care.
The Red Cross has launched a massive response to this devastating storm and needs financial donations to be able to provide immediate disaster relief. Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from this disaster. More than 80 tractor-trailer loads of cots, blankets, ready-to-eat meals, comfort kits, kitchen supplies and cleaning supplies are now on the ground in Texas.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) Texas Water Science Center deployed storm surge sensors in as many as 20 locations between the San Luis Pass and Corpus Christi. USGS is providing advance support, real-time field measurements, and daily reporting of water heights via deployed storm-tide sensors to help public officials assess storm damage, discern between wind and flood damage, and improve computer models used to forecast future floods. The Civil Air Patrol is providing aircraft, vehicles, and personnel to accomplish aerial/ground imaging, damage assessments, and transportation of personnel and light cargo.
Remember, follow instructions from state, local, and tribal officials. If told to shelter in place or evacuate, do so immediately. Do not return to evacuated areas until told it is safe to do so.
If you are in a high-rise building and need to shelter in place, go to first- or second -floor hallways or interior rooms. You want to stay on floors above floodwater or storm surge.
Driving through a flooded area can be extremely hazardous, and almost half of all flash flood deaths happen in vehicles. When in your vehicle, look out for flooding in low-lying areas, at bridges, and at highway dips. As little as six inches of water may cause you to lose control of your vehicle. If you encounter floodwaters, remember: Turn around, don’t drown.
Storm surge is often the greatest threat to life and property from a tropical storm. It poses a significant threat for drowning and can occur before, during, or after the center of a storm passes through an area. Storm surge can sometimes cut off evacuation routes, so do not delay leaving if an evacuation is ordered for your area.