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Disaster Recovery Center opens to help flood victims

July 15, 2006|by KATE S. ALEXANDER / Staff Correspondent

CHAMBERSBURG, PA.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) together with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) and Franklin County, opened a Disaster Recovery Center on Friday to assist the victims of flooding in the county.

North of Chambersburg on U.S. 11, the center will be open daily to help expedite and untangle the process of recovery for residents affected by flooding.

The Franklin County center is one of many across the state that opened Friday in response to the federal declaration of a state of emergency for the county. In addition to FEMA and PEMA, representatives from various state and local organizations are on site to offer help to disaster victims.

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Rita Kepner, a FEMA reservist, said the center will remain open as long as there are residents in need of assistance.

"We are here for three reasons - find and help those affected, take good care of the taxpayer's money and help residents prepare for next time," Kepner said.

FEMA requires that all residents claiming damages register either by calling 1-800-621-FEMA or online at www.fema.gov before coming to a recovery center.

Once registered, residents can come to the center for financial assistance, including making insurance claims through the National Flood Insurance Program. Uninsured residents can speak with representatives from the Small Business Association about a loan, or FEMA and PEMA about grants.

According to Kepner, uninsured residents should submit their loan application to the Small Business Administration as soon as possible because their loan application will determine eligibility for FEMA or PEMA grant money.

Both FEMA and PEMA determine grant recipients on a "needs basis," Kepner said.

"We evaluate each situation individually," she said.

As of Thursday, FEMA has awarded more than $167,000 to residents of Franklin County for "serious unmet needs" as part of its Disaster Housing Program, Kepner said.

The center also offers residents mitigation services in addition to recovery assistance.

"These are services that help residents prepare for next time," said Steve Michael, Franklin County DRC manager for PEMA.

Mitigation counselors encourage residents to protect their home through repairs, precautions and insurance.

Michael and his staff have information available for assembling what he calls a "72-hour kit." According to Michael, by assembling a kit, such as the one provided on-site by PEMA, residents should be able to sustain themselves for 72 hours in the event of a disaster.

For those interested in protecting their home with flood insurance, agents are on site with information about acquiring coverage. According to literature from FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program, "coverage is available to all owners of insurable property in a community participating in the NFIP." FEMA representatives substantiate that Franklin County is a participating community.

Kepner and Michael advise all residents to obtain flood insurance.

"If it ever rains on your roof, you need flood insurance," Kepner said.

The information available at the center is not exclusive to those directly affected by the flooding. Anyone can come and receive information to help protect against flood damage.

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