Posted by Kevin L. Hannes, Federal Coordinating Officer, Texas Wildfires
Bastrop, Texas, September 17, 2011 -- FEMA Community Relations and Individual Assistance specialists work with deaf and hard of hearing survivors at a Disaster Recovery Center in Bastrop, Texas. FEMA is working with local, state and other federal agencies to provide assistance to residents affected by recent fires.
Just 11 days since President Obama signed a major disaster declaration for the Texas wildfires, state and federal assistance to survivors has topped $5 million. Getting money in the pockets of Texans who have been affected by these historic fires is vital, and we’re working closely with the state to rush assistance dollars to eligible survivors as quickly as possible.
Getting dollars to Texans in need, however, is just one of the ways we’re working with the state and partnering to reach out to survivors. Another top priority is ensuring that survivors get the information they need to begin the recovery process.
To that end, teams of state and FEMA community relations specialists continue to fan out through all 13 disaster-designated counties. They are going door-to-door to homes, schools, businesses, and community- and faith-based organizations to spread the word about the kinds of assistance available and to urge people to register with FEMA.
Specialists who speak Spanish or American Sign Language also are reaching out to survivors who require an interpreter. Furthermore, they are reporting to our state/FEMA Joint Field Office in Austin about any concerns survivors may have. Through face-to-face visits with survivors and visits to disaster-affected communities, we’re able to learn of specific needs in the communities, and thus respond more quickly.
We also are operating assistance centers with the Texas Division of Emergency Management and the U.S. Small Business Administration in affected counties. We’re pleased that nearly 1,800 visitors have stopped by these centers in Bastrop, Travis and Williamson counties. We will open more centers to reach survivors throughout the disaster area in the coming weeks.
In all, more than 200 FEMA professionals are now working side by side with our state and local partners to provide assistance to disaster survivors - and to get them the information they need when they need it.