FEMA offers homeowners storm recovery, prep tips


By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

FEMA representatives are at local Lowe’s Home Improvement stores this week to offer homeowners advice on preparing their homes for future hurricanes.

Mitigation specialists with the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be at the Lowe’s in Elizabeth City and three other locations through Saturday, FEMA spokeswoman Jann Tracey said Tuesday. They’ll provide free information and literature on home improvement tips that could help homeowners as they rebuild from Hurricane Matthew or simply want to better prepare their homes for storms.

Tracey said FEMA representatives will be present at Lowe’s from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. today and Thursday and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday. In addition to the Lowe’s in Elizabeth City, they’ll also be on hand at the company’s stores in Whiteville, New Bern and Rockingham, a press release states.

Inside Elizabeth City’s Lowe’s, FEMA representative Carmen Rosado said she’s providing various tips to people, and is also stressing the importance of flood insurance -- for both homeowners and renters. People’s property can still be damaged in floods that don’t receive a federal disaster declaration -- which Matthew did. FEMA doesn’t provide aid such as emergency home repairs or temporary housing without such a declaration, she noted.

Rosado also said she’s also asking people to consider elevating off the ground their air-conditioning units and electrical panels, among other home improvements.

She also said disasters unfortunately bring out scammers, so she’s encouraging people to be cautious of whom they hire for home repair. Try to hire known, local contractors, she said, and look them up through the Better Business Bureau. She also advised not to pay for work upfront.

Tracey added Tuesday that, while elevating a home is expensive, there are cheaper ways to prepare for flooding, such as installing basement flood vents. Those don’t prevent flooding but can prevent major damage to a home’s foundation, she said.

Tracey also reminded Hurricane Matthew victims that they still have until Jan. 9 to apply for FEMA’s Individual Assistance program. They can register online through disasterassistance.gov or through the FEMA representatives at Lowe’s, she said.

Citing corporate restrictions about media interviews, a Lowe’s manager declined comment for this story.

Jan. 9 is also the deadline to apply for certain aid through the Small Business Administration.

In brief remarks at the Pasquotank County commissioners’ meetings on Monday, SBA represenative Bradford Caldwell encouraged both businesses and homeowners to register with the SBA if Matthew damaged their property. The SBA only provides loans, not grants, he noted, and said people should work through their flood insurance and FEMA aid before SBA assistance. However, he noted people may apply for SBA loans and turn them down later if they choose to.

Caldwell also reported businesses can apply for loans to help recover revenue they lost because of a storm or disaster. The deadline to apply for Economic Injury Disaster Loans is July 10, rather than Jan. 9, he reported.

For more information on SBA assistance, visit www.sba.gov/disaster.