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FEMA Offers Advice on Filing a Claim

Many West Virginians will be filing claims with FEMA for flood damage to homes and vehicles. The agency has some tips for how to do that. (Dan Heyman)
Many West Virginians will be filing claims with FEMA for flood damage to homes and vehicles. The agency has some tips for how to do that. (Dan Heyman)
July 1, 2016

CHARLESTON, W. Va. – First comes the flood, then comes the paperwork – but at least the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has some tips for flood victims.

FEMA spokesperson Mike Wade says don't wait, either to start repairs or file a FEMA claim, and document everything. Many folks walk through their home, apartment or business taking pictures or video with a cell phone.

If a vehicle is damaged, document that too, says Wade – and keep a record of what you spend.

"Making repairs or cleaning up their home - document it through photographs or through receipts," he advises. "If they go out and buy something to board up their windows, keep the receipts."

Flood victims can file a claim at DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling the FEMA hotline: 800-621-FEMA (3362).

Wade warns con men will try to take advantage of a disaster. If you're approached by anyone claiming to be with FEMA or the Small Business Administration, his advice is to ask for their identification; real government employees and contractors will be able to produce it.

He adds never give money, bank-account numbers, personal or credit-card information to anyone who just shows up claiming to be with the government.

"Our people will not come – one, and ask for any money to do anything; and two, we don't do home repairs," he explains. "So, if somebody comes and says they're with FEMA and they're here to make home repairs, we do not do that."

He recommends calling the police or the FEMA fraud office, which can be reached through the FEMA hotline.

Most homeowner policies don't cover floods. If you have flood insurance, that's a separate process and Wade says they can't duplicate what's covered there. He says FEMA's objective is only to get you back to having a safe place to live.

As he describes it, "It might not have carpet on the floors, but they at least have floors to walk on, and the home is safe and sanitary. They have running water and sewer, and the roof's not leaking."

In a federally recognized disaster, the Small Business Administration will make low-interest disaster loans to ordinary individuals, not just businesses.

Folks who want to help with flood relief efforts can contact the American Red Cross' West Virginia Region or visit the website of Volunteer West Virginia, the State's Commission for National and Community Service.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV