October 14, 2017
As government agencies and charitable groups continue to provide disaster assistance, con artists, identity thieves and other criminals may attempt to prey on vulnerable survivors.
The most common post-disaster fraud practices include phony housing inspectors, fraudulent building contractors, bogus pleas for disaster donations, fake offers of state or federal aid and charging for free services.
Scam attempts can be made over the phone, by mail, by email, through the internet, or in person. Con artists are creative and resourceful. It is important to remain alert, ask questions and require identification when someone claims to represent a government agency. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it should be questioned.
Here are some tips from FEMA to safeguard against fraud:
- Ask to see ID badges. All Federal Emergency Management Agency representatives always carry an identification badge with a photograph. A FEMA shirt or jacket is not proof of identity. If you are unsure or uncomfortable with anyone you encounter, contact local law enforcement.
- Keep your FEMA registration number safe. It is your key to your application information. Do not share it with others.
- Safeguard personal information. No state or federal government disaster assistance agency will call you to ask for your financial account information. Unless you place a call to an agency yourself, you should not provide personal information over the phone. It can lead to identity theft. FEMA will only request an applicant’s bank account numbers during the initial registration process. FEMA inspectors will require verification of identity but will already have your registration number.
- Beware of people going door to door. People knocking on doors at damaged homes or phoning homeowners claiming to be building contractors could be con artists, especially if they ask for personal information or solicit money.
- Know that federal workers do not solicit or accept money. FEMA and Small Business Administration staff never charge applicants for disaster assistance, inspections, or to help fill out applications. FEMA inspectors verify damages, but do not involve themselves in any aspect of the repair nor recommend any contractor.
Those who suspect fraud may call the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 (toll free). Complaints may also be made to local law enforcement agencies.
The quickest way to apply for federal assistance is online at www.disasterassistance.gov. Survivors may also apply by phone at 800-621-3362 (Voice, 711 or VS) or 800-462-7585 (TTY). Due to high demand, lines may be busy. Please be patient, and try calling in the morning or evening when call volume may be lower. The FEMA helpline numbers 800-621-3362 (Voice, 711 or VS) or 800-462-7585 (TTY) are open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. (ET), seven days a week until further notice.
If you believe you might be the victim of a home repair scam or price gouging, call your state’s Attorney General office.
Photo by J.T. Blatty / FEMA
October 13, 2017
Check out this cool video by NASA explaining Transient Luminous Events or basically flashes and glows called blue jets, red sprites and other TLEs that appear above storms.
Blue jets pulse from the tops of intense thunderstorms and reach up toward the edge of space. Red sprites are glows in the upper atmosphere, tied to the presence of large lightning flashes but not attached to the clouds themselves.
The ISS has afforded astronauts the opportunity to photograph a number of natural light shows produced at the tops of thunderstorms as seen in below video…
For more science from above the clouds visit www.nasa.gov/station and see more cool lightning posts here
October 5, 2017
Did you know fire kills more Americans every year than all natural disasters combined? Fire spreads quickly so there is NO time to grab valuables or make a phone call.
That’s why this year’s Fire Prevention Week theme: “Every Second Counts: Plan 2 Ways Out!” is so important. It reinforces why everyone needs to have an escape plan.
Some key FPW messages from the National Fire Protection Association include:
- Draw a map of your home by using NFPA’s grid in English (PDF) or Spanish (PDF) with all members of your household, marking two exits from each room and a path to the outside from each exit.
- Practice your home fire drill twice a year. Conduct one at night and one during the day with everyone in your home, and practice using different ways out.
- Teach children how to escape on their own in case you can’t help them.
- Make sure the number of your home is clearly marked and easy for the fire department to find.
- Close doors behind you as you leave – this may slow the spread of smoke, heat, and fire.
- Once you get outside, stay outside. Never go back inside a burning building.
Find more Home Fire Prevention and Safety Tips … and learn more about FPW at www.firepreventionweek.org
September 9, 2017
SAMHSA’s Disaster Distress Helpline puts people in need of counseling on the path to recovery. Their staff members provide counseling and support before, during, and after disasters and refer people to local disaster-related resources for follow-up care and support.
Since its launch in February 2012, the Disaster Distress Helpline has provided counseling and support in response to disasters such as Hurricane Sandy, the Boston Marathon bombing, and the Ebola outbreak. SAMHSA also has an interpretation service that connects callers with counselors in more than 150 languages.
The Disaster Distress Helpline is staffed by trained counselors from a network of crisis call centers located across the United States. These counselors provide:
- Crisis counseling for people in emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster
- Information on how to recognize distress and its effects on individuals and families
- Tips for healthy coping
- Referrals to local crisis call centers for additional follow-up care and support
When you call or text, crisis counselors will listen to what’s on your mind with patience and without judgment. There is no need to give any identifying information when you contact the Disaster Distress Helpline. The counselor may ask you for some basic information at the end of the call, but these questions are optional and are intended to help SAMHSA keep track of the types of calls it receives.
SAMHSA’s Disaster Distress Helpline provides 24/7, 365-day-a-year crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters.
Stress, anxiety, and other depression-like symptoms are common reactions after a disaster. If you or someone you know is struggling, please contact the Disaster Distress Helpline.
- In the U.S. call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
- For all hard of hearing and deaf people use 1-800-846-8517.
- Spanish speakers call 1-800-985-5990 and press “2” or text Hablanos to 66746.
Learn more at disasterdistress.samhsa.gov ~ and please share this with others.
September 6, 2017
Our apologies – we had a few wrong links on our previous blog.
Please visit Hurricane updates and resources + free 58-page preparedness ebook and download and share PDF and post with others.
Thank you! j & B
September 6, 2017
It’s been several years since the U.S. has dealt with a major hurricane hitting our shores, but things are really starting to heat up esp. since we are in peak hurricane season.
As Texas and Louisiana continue to recover from the wrath of hurricane Harvey, an extremely powerful Hurricane Irma is barreling towards Florida and the southeastern U.S. Plus Irma’s little brother Jose is building strength as it follows her west.
Download a free 58-page PDF portion of our IT’S A DISASTER! book with tips about hurricanes, floods, evacuations, making a family plan, assembling disaster kits and more … and share ebook and this post with others ~ esp. those living along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
Also visit the U.S. First Responders Association‘s Disaster Preparedness forum to find resources and updates about Hurricane Irma and Harvey recovery and the 2017 hurricane season in general, and follow the USFRA facebook page for breaking news and updates.
Stay safe out there and again – please download our free ebook and learn how to order the full 280-page ebook ($3 U.S.) or paperbacks ($4.50 U.S.) at www.fedhealth.net. j & B
September 2, 2017
Hurricane Harvey will have a lasting impact on the Gulf coasts of Texas and Louisiana. And the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) members will be there providing relief and recovery for years to come, and they will need your assistance.
The single best way individuals and businesses can help disaster survivors is to donate money to a recognized voluntary organization.
Cash doesn’t need to be sorted, stored or distributed, and it allows the voluntary agency to use the donation towards the needs that most urgently need addressing. The funds can also help stimulate the local economy.
For over 44 years, National VOAD’s 100 member organizations have been helping communities worldwide.
Visit the National VOAD Hurricane Harvey Response page to learn how to help those affected by the storm and subsequent flooding.
Also find a complete list of National VOAD Members’ donation pages here.
And if you would like to volunteer for a National VOAD member organization, visit their Volunteer page.
As we say in our Dedication in our book… thank you to all volunteers around the world who give their heart, soul, energy, and time unselfishly for the betterment of our society. j & B