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Story Archives: FEMA discovery recovery center opens in Vidalia
|FEMA discovery recovery center opens in Vidalia|
FEMA Manager Gabriela Garibaldi said she did not realize how much damage this area received from Hurricane Gustav until she arrived in the state - further into the state that is.
Garibaldi, who lives in California, is part of a FEMA Discovery Recovery Center that arrived in Vidalia after stops in Point Coupee, Plaquemines Parish, Iberville Parish and Abbeville.
"The further we went into the state is when we noticed the damage," she said. "That's kind of unusual."
The center is located in the Bryant O. Hammett Conference & Convention on the riverfront in Vidalia. Officials there said applicants should use the door on the far right side.
The center will be open through Nov. 29, with the exception of Sunday, November 23, and Thanksgiving Day.
Office hours will be from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Garibaldi said 27 applicants assisted on Monday.
"The majority of the people have questions about insurance and what part FEMA plays," she said. "Most people are not sure if they are eligible and we're willing to answer all questions. People can submit their documents and they don't have to pay for them to be copied or shipped off somewhere else. Everything is done free here and you don't have to grab a number and wait a long time."
There are also tables set up for Small Business Administration and mitigation officials.
Ed Edahl, Public Information Officer for FEMA External Affairs, said residents should be sure they are dealing with federal representatives before providing any personal information and should contact FEMA if they have questions or concerns about the truthfulness of claims made by third parties through word of mouth or in print.
In the wake of natural disasters, it is not uncommon for victims to be taken unaware by someone claiming to be an official disaster aid worker. To safeguard against disaster-related fraud, officials recommend the following precautions:
Ask for ID. If someone claims to be a federal employee, such as an inspector, residents should ask to see identification. A FEMA or U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) shirt or jacket is not absolute proof of someone's affiliation with the government. Federal employees carry official, laminated photo identification. Applicants may receive a visit from more than one inspector or verifier.
Safeguard personal information. Do not give personal information such as Social Security and bank account numbers to individuals claiming to be affiliated with the federal government. FEMA inspectors never require this information. A Social Security or bank account number is requested during the first phone call to register with FEMA. On any follow-up calls, a FEMA representative may ask for the last four digits of your social security number for identification purposes.
Beware of people going door-to-door. People going door-to-door to damaged homes or phoning victims and claiming to be building contractors, could be frauds. If visitors or callers solicit personal information such as Social Security or bank account numbers, they are not for real. Note that FEMA Community Relations staff may visit homes, shelters and hotels to distribute flyers. They will not solicit personal information.
Federal workers do not solicit or accept money. FEMA and SBA staff never charge applicants for disaster assistance, inspections or help in filling out applications. If in doubt, do not give out information, and report people claiming to be government workers to local police.
FEMA inspectors verify damage but do not hire or endorse specific contractors to fix homes or recommend repairs.
FEMA encourages anyone who believes she or he may have witnessed fraudulent activity to report it immediately through the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General's Hurricane Fraud Hotline 1-866-720-5721.
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