Beware of Identity Thieves and Scam Artists after a Disaster

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.

Source: FEMA.gov

Photo by J.T. Blatty / FEMA

Advertisements

NASA video: A Display of Lights Above the Storm

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


Fire Prevention Week is Oct 8-14, 2017

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


SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline (counseling and support before, during, and after disasters)

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.

Save


Hurricane updates and resources + free 58-pg preparedness ebook

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

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save


How to help organizations providing relief and recovery from #Harvey

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 

Save


Flood safety tips and resources

August 26, 2017

Floods are the most common natural disaster. Some floods develop over a period of several days, but a flash flood can cause raging waters in just a few minutes.

Mudflows are another danger triggered by flooding that can bury villages without warning, especially in mountainous regions.

Everyone is at risk from floods and flash floods, even in areas that seem harmless in dry weather. Always listen to the radio or TV to hear the latest updates. Some other types of radios are the NOAA Weather Radio and Environment Canada Weatheradio with battery backup and tone-alert feature that alert you when a Watch or Warning has been issued.

 

BEFORE A FLOOD (OR HEAVY RAIN):

Prepare – Review some Flood Mitigation tips

Learn the buzzwords – Learn the terms / words used with floods…

  • Flood watch – flooding is possible
  • Flash flood watch – flash flooding is possible so move to higher ground if in a low-lying area
  • Flood warning – flooding is occurring or will occur soon so listen to radio or TV for updates or evacuation alerts
  • Flash flood warning – flash flood is occurring so seek higher ground on foot immediately
  • Urban and Small Stream Advisory – flooding of small streams, streets and low-lying areas is occurring

Learn risks – Ask local emergency management office if your property is a flood-prone or high-risk area and what you can do to reduce risks to your property and home. Find out what official flood warning signals are and what to do when you hear them. Ask if there are dams or levees nearby and if they could be hazards.  

Be ready to evacuate – Listen to local authorities and leave if you are told to evacuate.  

Make a plan – Develop a Family Emergency Plan and Disaster Supplies Kit. And download Iowa Conservation and Preservation Consortium’s “Flood Recovery Booklet” to learn how to dry materials like artwork, books, photographs, etc. at www.iowaconserveandpreserve.org

Learn to shut off – Know where and how to shut off electricity, gas and water at main switches and valves — and ask local utilities for instructions.

Get insurance…? – Talk to your agent and find out more about the National Flood Insurance Program or visit www.FloodSmart.gov

Did you know…

  • you can buy federal flood insurance through most major insurance companies and licensed agents?!
  • you do not have to own a home to have flood insurance as long as your community participates in the NFIP?!
  • NFIP offers coverage even in flood-prone areas and offers basement and below ground level coverage?!

Put it on film/chip/drive – Either videotape or take pictures of home and personal belongings and store them in a safe place with important papers.

 

DURING A FLOOD (OR HEAVY RAIN):

Be aware – Listen to local news and watch for flash floods especially if near streams, drainage channels, and areas known to flood. Be prepared to fill and place sandbags in areas as instructed to help combat rising waters.

Get to higher ground – If in a low-lying area, move to higher ground.

Prepare to evacuate – Review some evacuation tips, and IF time also…

  • Secure home and move important items to upper floors.
  • Turn off utilities at main switches or valves if instructed by authorities and DO NOT touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water!
  • Fill up your car with fuel.

Obey warnings – If road signs, barricades, or cones are placed in areas – DO NOT drive around them! Find another way or you may get fined.

Things to avoid:

  • moving water – 6 inches (15 cm) of moving water can knock you off your feet and 2 ft (0.6 m) can float a car
  • flooding car – if flood waters rise around your car, get out and move to higher ground if you can do it safely
  • bad weather – leave early enough so you’re not trapped
  • flooded areas – roadways and bridges may be washed-out
  • downed power lines – extremely dangerous in floods!!

 

AFTER A FLOOD (OR HEAVY RAIN):

Things to avoid:

  • flood waters – avoid since they may be contaminated by oil, gasoline or raw sewage or may be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines – local authorities will say when it’s okay to return
  • moving water – 6 inches (15 cm) can knock you off your feet and 2 ft (0.6 m) can float a car
  • flooded areas – roadways and bridges may be washed-out
  • downed power lines – extremely dangerous and report them to the power company

Obey warnings – If road signs, barricades, or cones are placed in areas – OBEY THEM! Most areas fine people who ignore posted warnings. DO NOT drive around barricades… find another way to get there!

Strange critters – Watch out for snakes and other wildlife in areas that were flooded. Don’t try to care for a wounded critter since it may try to attack you… call your local animal control office or animal shelter.

Flooded food – Throw away food that has come into contact with flood waters since eating it can make you sick.

Drinking water – Wait for officials to advise when water is safe to drink. If you have a well that gets contaminated, find another source or boil water.

Wash your hands – Wash hands often with clean water and soap since flood waters are dirty and full of germs!

Use bleach – The best thing to use for cleaning up flooded areas is household bleach since it helps kill germs.

Sandbags – If any sandbags come into contact with floodwaters, wear rubber gloves when removing them and follow officials’ instructions on where to discard them since they’re most likely contaminated.

Listen – Continue listening to radio or TV for updates on weather and tips on getting assistance for housing, clothing, food, etc.

Insurance – Call your insurance agent or representative to discuss claims.

Mold – Consider asking a restoration professional to inspect your house for mold and visit www.epa.gov/mold for flood cleanup tips.

Above extracted from our book called IT’S A DISASTER! …and what are YOU gonna do about it?

Additional resources:

Flood mitigation and safety resources

Information and tips about NOAA Weather Radios

Landslide and debris flow safety tips

Tips and resources about disaster declarations, response, assistance and recovery

Save


%d bloggers like this: