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

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Google SOS Alerts can help during an emergency or crisis

July 26, 2017

Google has announced a new set of features in Google Search and Maps called SOS Alerts that activate during major natural, man-made, or humanitarian disasters.

During a crisis, people need real-time information. Whether they’re experiencing an issue on the ground or trying to understand the situation from afar, Google wants their products to give people quick access to important information—such as what is going on and where it is happening—to help them stay safe and informed.

For people using Google Search to learn more about a crisis, SOS Alerts connects them with news, maps, and whenever available, updates from local authorities, emergency resources, donation opportunities, and more—all organized in one place for easy access and sharing.

For people using Maps to find out more about a crisis, SOS Alerts provide live updates about what’s going on in the area, as well as direct access to emergency resources, such as hotline numbers.

Google Public Alerts complement SOS Alerts by helping local and public authorities communicate emergency messages specifically related to official weather, public safety, and earthquake alerts.

The tech giant developed SOS Alerts in partnership with FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), the Red Cross and local emergency authorities.

The below image is an example of what a Google search result might look like in an area dealing with wildfires:

Sources: Google Crisis Response, Google blog and NextGov

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Learn about Building a Safe Room (FEMA Webinar 22-May-2017 2p EDT)

May 16, 2017

FEMA’s Building Science Branch is hosting a one-hour webinar on Monday, May 22, 2017 at 2 p.m. EDT to provide consumer and construction guidance for residential and small business safe rooms.

Participants will use the 2014 publication, “FEMA P-320 Taking Shelter from the Storm: Building a Safe Room for Your Home or Small Business,” as resource to learn about background on FEMA safe rooms, new guidance, and revised construction plans.

Those interested in participating in the webinar can register online.

The following topics will be addressed:

  • assessing the need for safe rooms;
  • planning for safe rooms;
  • consumer guidance;
  • how to use the FEMA P-320 construction plans;
  • and safe room tools and resources.

Webinar participants will receive a Certificate of Completion indicating one Professional Development Hour for those who wish to self-report for professional licensure. Register for FEMA’s webinar

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ABCs of School Emergency Planning (resources for schools, educators + parents)

September 6, 2014

The following appeared in FEMA and Citizen Corps’ 4-Sep-2014 Individual and Community Preparedness e-Brief:

It’s September once again and that means children across the country are heading back to school.

Do you know the emergency plan at your child’s school? What about the steps the school will take to share pertinent information with you?

As a parent, it’s important to understand what will happen after a natural disaster or emergency at your child’s school.

Here are the ABC’s of what you should know about a school’s Emergency Operations Plan (EOP):

  1. Always ensure your school has up-to-date evacuation plans, emergency kits and contact sheets. Ensure your school’s nurse has your child’s medical information and medications on hand. Ask your child’s teacher to walk you through their evacuation plan and show you their emergency kits.
  2. Be Prepared. Provide your school with your cell phone number, work phone number, and contact information for your relatives. If your child is old enough to carry a cell phone, make sure they know how to text you or a designated contact in case of an emergency. Also, be prepared to have a conversation with your child about emergencies and hazards.
  3. Coordinate with your child’s teachers and school officials to set a plan in place if there is not one. Guide them to Ready.gov for more resources and encourage the school to perform school wide drills and exercises as part of America’s PrepareAthon!

These ABCs, tools and resources are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to your child’s at-school safety. For more information on how to get started visit www.ready.gov/school-emergency-plans


National Severe Weather Preparedness Week March 2-8, 2014 #BeAForce

February 28, 2014

Photo: FEMAMost states across the U.S. set aside a week in February or March to observe their own local Severe Weather Awareness week , but NOAA, FEMA and others will be promoting National Severe Weather Preparedness Week March 2-8, 2014.

As we’ve seen year after year, March brings all kinds of wild weather and chaos like thunderstorms, tornadoes, high winds and flooding. And there are still chances of snow storms and hard freezes in various parts of the country so we all need to be prepared for Mother Nature’s mood swings.

The goal of National Severe Weather Preparedness Week is to inform the public about severe weather hazards and provide knowledge which can be used to prepare and take action. These actions can be used to save lives anywhere – at home, in schools, and in the workplace before extreme weather strikes. As NOAA says… Be a Force of Nature by knowing your risk, taking action and being an example where you live.

Facts & Figures

In 2013, there were seven weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each across the United States according to NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. These events included five severe weather and tornado events, a major flood event, and the western drought/heat wave. Overall, these events killed 109 people and had significant economic effects on the areas impacted.

Globally, losses from natural catastrophes in 2013 were somewhat moderate: the direct overall losses of around US$125bn remained below the average of the past ten years (US$184bn) according to Munich Re. Sadly, in a total of 880 major disasters around the world in 2013, more than 20,000 people were killed, but this figure is significantly below the average of the past ten years (106,000).

Take the Next Step 

NOAA and FEMA’s Be a Force of Nature: Take the Next Step campaign encourages the public to take a single preparedness action during each day of National Severe Weather Preparedness Week.

For example, according to NOAA’s Social Media Plan, daily themes include…

  • Sunday, March 2nd – National Severe Weather Preparedness Week Launch
  • Monday, March 3rd – Know your Severe Weather Risk
  • Tuesday, March 4th – Build an Emergency Kit
  • Wednesday, March 5th – Make an Emergency Plan
  • Thursday, March 6th – Emergency Alert Warnings
  • Friday, March 7th – Be a Force of Nature – Take Action
  • Saturday, March 8th – Summary

In addition to the below educational resources, visit NOAA’s online toolkit page to find some materials, social media tools, a poster and more to help spread the word during National Severe Weather Preparedness Week.

Flood and Tsunami Awareness Weeks also in March

March 16 – 22, 2014 is National Flood Awareness week intended to highlight some of the many ways floods can occur, the hazards associated with floods, and what you can do to save life and property.

Visit www.nws.noaa.gov/floodsafety/ orwww.nws.noaa.gov/floodsafety/floodsafe.shtml to find tools, tips, brochures, videos and more.

And Tsunami Awareness Week is March 23 – 29, 2014 is designed to help cities, towns, counties, universities and other large sites in coastal areas reduce the potential for disastrous tsunami-related consequences using National Weather Service’s TsunamiReady program. Learn more at www.tsunamiready.noaa.gov 

Learn more

FLOOD resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mold cleanup tips

EPA’s 20-page guide, “Mold, Moisture and Your Home”

FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program

Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety Flood page

NOAA’s Flood Safety page

Ready Campaign flood safety awareness page

THUNDERSTORM and LIGHTNING Resources

National Weather Service Lightning Safety site

NWS Lightning Safety Tools for Teachers

Ready Campaign Thunderstorms & Lightning page

TORNADO Resources

Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety Tornado page

NOAA Tornado safety tips

More NOAA Tornado tips

Ready Campaign Tornado page

The Tornado Project Online!

Or visit your state or local Emergency Management, Health, Fire, Police or Sheriff department’s website to find local emergency information, safety tips and tools to help you and your loved ones prepare for severe weather outbreaks.

Also learn more about our collaborative Public-Private Partnership ideas associated with our customizable book to help fund volunteers and first responders and educate local communities while saving them money! It’s a whole community approach to resilience and preparedness and can complement your Awareness campaigns. Read more


New way to share collaborative ideas

May 3, 2012

Fedhealth programs can help fund and prepare whole communitiesFEMA’s Whole Community Approach and their push for more Public-Private Partnerships across the nation fits perfectly with our core mission of collaborating with groups to help educate communities while helping fund and support volunteers, first responders and others.

For decades there have been many initiatives and programs offered by agencies and groups to get the public involved, but sadly there is still a ton of apathy and complacency in this country.

One key thing is … we’ve got to find ways to make preparedness an integral part of society and make it so everyone benefits within each and every community.

Our collaborative ideas can gently force preparedness data into homes and businesses using both public and private sectors … and … generate funds for local nonprofits, schools, volunteers + First Responders … and … create excitement about preparedness!

For example, some benefits of using our customizable books (and CDs and ebooks) include…

  • educating local communities about disaster preparedness and basic first aid;
  • maximizing grants (great draw down vehicle + qualifies as public education);
  • earning about a $4-to-$1 return on match;
  • including local data like evacuation maps, shelter data, plans, logos, etc for free;
  • complementing employee or volunteer handbooks, safety data and plans;
  • promoting your agency, business or volunteer group inside the front of books;
  • collaborating with businesses to sponsor purchases or place ads (we print ads for free);
  • helping CERTs, Scouts, VOADs, schools, etc earn funds + generate buzz by partnering with public & private sectors..!

overview with collaborative Public Private Partnerships ideas and funding examplesWe recently setup a new page where FEMA Think Tank and National Preparedness Coalition members, CERT and MRC coordinators, Chambers, VOADs, Troop leaders and others can download a free IT’S A DISASTER! mini ebook and a 2-page overview with collaborative ideas and funding examples.

Please share this mini ebook and overview with volunteers, agencies, businesses, churches, civic clubs and others trying to form Public-Private Partnerships in their communities!

Visit www.itsadisaster.net/ppp.html to learn more or call Fedhealth at 1-888-999-4325 to discuss ways we can help support YOUR efforts!


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