Time is Running Out – Only Two Weeks Left to Register for Disaster Aid

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Survivors of the storms and flooding that ravaged central and eastern Pennsylvania have only two weeks left to register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for disaster assistance. The deadline to register is November 14, 2011.

Individuals who live, work, or own a business in the 29 Pennsylvania counties designated under the disaster declarations for Hurricane Irene and Tropical Strom Lee are eligible. The counties are Adams, Berks, Bradford, Bucks, Chester, Columbia, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Huntingdon, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Luzerne, Lycoming, Monroe, Montgomery, Montour, Northampton, Northumberland, Perry, Philadelphia, Schuylkill, Snyder, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Union, Wyoming, and York.

The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and FEMA urge those who sustained disaster-related losses to register by the deadline, even if they are unsure of their eligibility.

November 14 is also the deadline to apply for a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loan. For information about SBA loan applications, visit www.sba.gov/services/disasterassistance or call the SBA Customer Service Center at 1-800-659-2955. Those with speech or hearing difficulties may dial 1-800-877-8339. Loan application forms can also be downloaded from www.sba.gov.

There are four ways to register with FEMA:

  1. Call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). Operators assist callers seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Help is available in most languages. If you have a speech disability or hearing loss and use a TTY, call 1-800-462-7585.
  2. Register online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov.
  3. Register using a tablet or smartphone by visiting m.fema.gov.
  4. If you use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 1-800-621-3362.

If you have a disability and need help registering, please contact FEMA at 1-800-621-3362 and ask for assistance.

Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status.  If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). For TTY call 1-800-462-7585.

Article Courtesy of FEMA


Your Thoughts: Building Permit Fees for Flood Victims

The Town Council meeting last night was not the only place where the issue of building permit fees for flood victims was discussed.  Our article commenters and Facebook groups have contributed many interesting and thought-provoking viewpoints on the subject.  (Original article, Building Permit Fees Cause Lively Town Council Debate).  Add your comments here if you haven’t had a chance to weigh in on the discussion.

Here are some of the opinions of our readers:

This is a very sticky situation. Could they possibly reduce the fees for flood victims? — Diane

Building permits cover the cost of a building inspector checking to make sure work is in code. This protects the property owner from shabby work from a contractor and people who purchase the house in the future. It’s part of owning a property. BUT, have you ever heard of a building inspector really doing a thorough job? It’s a joke. If He or she shows up, they talk to the contractor for a few minutes and leave. Things have to be pretty bad for him to stop the work and demand repairs. I can’t see a person who has $15,000 in flood repairs paying $150.00 in what is just ultimately a tax. I don’t know how many inspectors Bloomsburg has but lets guess 2. How can two people get around to every flooded home in Bloomsburg at the different stages the contractor needs him to inspect? He can’t, so why charge the people a fee for a service you can’t provide? — Ethan

We waived the fee for flood properties only in Hemlock Twp. for one year … if they rebuild they must rebuilt to the current flood zoning. — Rob

It will be interesting to see if FEMA money will be allocated to the town. I believe it is imperative to the town’s recovery. If the town were to receive some aid it would have more flexibilty to waive certain costs to property owners like building permit fees. Raising local taxes (flood tax) or placing the burden on individuals affected by this disaster may be unavoidable if the town doesn’t receive federal or state aid. — Michael

I’m sure a lot of the property owners have flood insurance which would pay for permitting costs and if they did I dont think it would be fair to push these costs to tax payers. I felt the same way with all disposal fees. However if some were on fixed incomes with no insurance then reduced costs would be fine. — Lee

Some folks have insurance, some do not either way I believe fees should be reduced for everyone to be fair. A lot of home now are undergoing repairs and probably have not gone through the permitting process. The town needs to recover its costs too. — Todd

I believe that we should have reduced fees for the flood victims. Some fee no matter how small should be required because, this would make monitoring where and how homes are rebuilt easier. — Barb

Photo by teofilo

AGAPE in Dire Need of Volunteers

AGAPE is in dire need of volunteers. The need for help (especially during the day) is now critical with the new applications for financial assistance coming in as well as an increased demand for furniture, appliances etc. as flood survivors begin to get back on their feet. In the words of an AGAPE employee, “It was a zoo yesterday and as you know not one person there is a paid employee.”

The crisis is over but the emergency is not.

AGAPE is requesting volunteers to fill positions at the dates and times listed below. Please understand that any part of the day listed would be most appreciated with mornings always much busier than afternoons. AGAPE Center will be open regularly: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Closed Wednesdays and Sundays. Call 317-2210, send an email to agaperelief@gmail.com or stop by the AGAPE CENTER if you can help with any of the following:

Information desk
Saturday, 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Answer phone, hand out applications, fill supply needs.

Storehouse helpers: Hours varied. AGAPE will work to coordinate with volunteer availability.
Help lift, load, unload and store donations (some heavy lifting)
Sort clothes; help fill supply requests from information desk.

Sixth Street, behind grass lot.
Handout food:
Thursday: 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Friday: 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Saturday: 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

( Behind Farm Museum and near Tank Display)
Storehouse helpers: Help unload and store donated furniture; help load
furniture for flood survivors
Monday: 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Tuesday: 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Case Workers: Hours varied. AGAPE will work to coordinate with volunteer availability. Experienced or willing to train to interview flood survivors.

Hours varied. AGAPE will work to coordinate with volunteer availability.
Licensed electrician
Licensed plumber

Information courtesy of AGAPE

Disasters Can Severely Impact the Elderly

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The losses following Pennsylvania’s storms and flooding last month may be magnified for the elderly.

Seniors previously living on their own may be dependent on others for food, shelter and the necessities of daily living. Those used to assisted living may face upheaval in their normal routines or a change in their usual caregivers.

Additionally, the stress of the disaster itself can cause significant challenges.

Symptoms of stress unique to the elderly include:

  • Reliving events in their lives when they were traumatized or suffered severe losses.
  • Fear of losing their independence or self-sufficiency.
  • Fear of a decline in health and limitations on mobility.
  • Worry about limited financial resources, time, and physical ability to rebuild.
  • Fear of being put in an institution.
  • Withdrawal and isolation from family and friends.

When working with older adults after a disaster, it is important to:

  • Provide consistent verbal reassurance.
  • Assist them in recovering their physical possessions.
  • Return them to familiar surroundings with friends and acquaintances as soon as possible.
  • Make sure they have needed medical and financial assistance.
  • Help them re-establish social networks.
  • Monitor their nutritionaland medication needs.

For more information about behavioral health services available in your area, contact your county crisis hotline or mental health office. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Additional information about this disaster is available at www.fema.gov, and www.readypa.org.

Article courtesy of FEMA

Photo courtesy of Bloomsburg Health System


Look Out for Signs of Post-Disaster Stress

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The initial trauma from Pennsylvania’s two late-summer disasters – Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee – has passed, but the psychological effects can linger.

Stress caused by loss or a traumatic experience can sneak up on people and influence behavior and emotions. The elderly and children are particularly vulnerable to stress after a disaster and may require special considerations.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have developed a list of things to look for and tips for helping yourself and others get through this difficult time. Some common signs of stress are:

  • Trouble concentrating or remembering things.
  • Difficulty making decisions.
  • Replaying the events and circumstances of the disaster over and over in your mind.
  • Anxiety or fear, especially when things remind you of the traumatic experience.
  • Feeling depressed, sad or down much of the time.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Nightmares.
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco or illegal drugs.
  • Feeling overwhelmed.

Stress isn’t just emotional. It can manifest in physical sensations like fatigue, stomachaches or diarrhea, headaches, sweating or chills, chest pain, or a rapid heartbeat. Changes in behavior also can signal that you are under stress. Do you withdraw or isolate yourself, even from family and friends? Are you restless or prone to emotional outbursts? Do you startle easily?

Here are some common-sense measures to help you overcome stress and get you back to yourself again.

  • Friends and family are good medicine. Talk with them about your feelings. Sharing common experiences helps you deal with and overcome anxiety and feelings of helplessness.
  • Get back into your daily routines as soon as you can.
  • Maintain a healthy diet and get plenty of sleep.
  • Find ways to relax. Do a fun thing after a difficult or stressful task.
  • Get some physical exercise every day. Walking is a great stress reliever and you can do it with a friend or relative.

Know that feeling stressed, depressed, guilty or angry is common after a traumatic event. Watch out for problems that are more than you can handle. If signs of stress are serious or if they persist, you should see a counselor or other mental health professional.

For more information about behavioral health services available in your area, please contact your county crisis hotline or mental health office. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Additional information about this disaster is available at www.fema.gov, and www.readypa.org.

Article courtesy of FEMA

Rep. Millard Talks with Fernville Residents

Here is the live blog of the meeting between Rep. Millard and Fernville Residents

Here is the live stream archive of the meeting between Rep. Millard and Fernville Residents

Pennsylvania State Representative David Millard held a meeting last night with his constituents from the Fernville area. The meeting, which was scheduled to last an hour, ended up going on for nearly two hours with many questions from residents who were angry, unsure about their futures, and concerned about mixed messages from all levels of government. Some felt the meeting itself was poorly communicated and had only heard about it several hours before the start time. In the end, there were few answers, but many promises of help from Rep. Millard.

Rep. Millard explains what residents should do to apply for disaster relief in this linked article.

Millard’s introductory remarks almost instantly turned from the advertised subject of “flood issues” to buy-outs of Fernville residents’ homes. There was a discussion about whether appraised or assessed values would be utilized if a buy-out actually occurs. The officials in attendance from Hemlock Township indicated that the township can decide which value is used.

Representative Millard spoke for about 5 minutes before he opened the floor to questions. Residents were concerned about the idea of fixing up their homes and then having a flood wall be built in that exact area. What would happen then? No one in the room was particularly sure. Later on, someone wondered if their property would be bought out if the flood wall was planned to go through their property. Once again, no definitive answers.

When residents heard that it might be 18 months to 2 years until buy-out checks could be issued, people in the audience expressed intense frustration over being homeless, having mortgages, and waiting for checks. Rep. Millard didn’t necessarily have an answer to this problem, but he did indicate that there are some legislative possibilities, including floating a state bond to help speed up the buy-out process.

The bond, if approved, would be issued by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in order for residents to receive buyouts more quickly, with the money repaid to the Commonwealth with the forthcoming Federal disaster funds. While this bond is being considered, Rep. Millard indicated that the constitutionality of such a bond is in question, and research is being done to see if this issuance of a bond to be paid back with Federal disaster funds is in fact possible.

Rep. Millard promised that he would make public notice if there was action on this matter.

To further complicate matters, there was uncertainty about insurance payments as they relate to potential buy-outs. It was stated that buy-out money received will be deducted from any amount previously received from insurance. Records must be kept of money received and from whom it came.

The meeting broke down several times due to what could only be called general frustration. There was frustration from many people over the slowness of government insurance response and the futility of raising homes above flood level. There was frustration about the flood wall, with residents murmuring, “There will never be a floodwall.” There was frustration about there being no solutions in the past — no buy-outs or no floodwalls — with residents simply left waiting for the next flood.

Rep. Millard was actively attempting to collect information from people about their home values, their addresses and phone numbers, whether they would like to be bought out, and any complaints related to getting the insurance coverage they feel they are due.

The only real answers came when talking about demolition. According to Hemlock Township, if there is a massive buyout, properties will probably be grouped and the township will put out bids for demolition. Frustrated residents began to wonder aloud whether they could pursue a private company for demolition now.

As the meeting concluded, Rep. Millard indicated that he attempted to get FEMA to attend the meeting, but they were unable due to scheduling issues. He did indicate that FEMA has said they will make a presentation to the General Assembly and he will attempt to have them attend future meetings. It was hoped that those meetings will deal specifically with acquisition and shortening the time frame to make that happen.

After one hour and forty-five minutes, the meeting concluded with information changing hands and promises for better future communication.

Rep. Millard Works To Streamline Flood Relief

State Representative David Millard held a public meeting at the request of the residents of Fernville on the evening of October 20th, 2011. With the discussion revolving around the uncertainty of when and how Fernville residents would receive funds for the repair or acquisition of their damaged properties, Rep. Millard assured those in attendance that their well-being and care are his primary concern.

“This event was of such a magnitude, that we need to take people out of harm’s way,” Rep. Millard stated. “I want to facilitate that.”

Most of the residents in attendance reported receiving varying information from local, state, or federal government offices, creating much confusion.

Anticipating the uncertainty, Rep. Millard requested and received from Congressman Lou Barletta the “boiler plate forms” for the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program that all residents of the 109th District who wish to apply for disaster relief should use.

Rep. Millard emphasized that while these forms can be submitted to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency as indicated, his office is able and more than willing to accept these applications on the State’s behalf.

Submitting these forms directly to Rep. Millard’s office will help him in advocating in the General Assembly for sufficient disaster relief funds to be directed to the local area.

Rep. Millard also wishes to remind local residents that when submitting this information, they should include with the forms the most recent 2011 assessed value of their properties, not values that may have been assessed for similar relief in 2006. Also, a recent picture of the property should be included.

Links to Downloadable copies of the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program Pre-Application Form distributed by Rep. Millard and a FEMA Factsheet

Rep. Millard’s District Offices Contact Information

Website: PA State Representative David Millard
E-mail: dmillard@pahousegop.com

Bloomsburg Office, MOVED TEMPORARILY TO:
Bloomsburg Tech Center
240 Market St.
Bloomsburg PA, 17815

TOLL-FREE 855-282-0615
(570) 387-0246
FAX: (570) 387-4288

Saundra Robbins
Lisa Wagner

Berwick Office
904B Orange St.
Berwick PA, 18603

(570) 759-8734
FAX: (570) 759-4527

Trudy Stout
Chris Yacina

Photo by FeatheredTar

An Interview with Bloomsburg University President David Soltz

Many of us have the impression that given a week off from school due to a natural disaster, the typical college student would go home to see family or take a road trip to visit friends.  The scenario we envision would probably not include staying in a flood-ravaged town without running water and scooping sewage-laced river mud out of a home twelve blocks away from the student’s apartment.  However, in the aftermath of the 2011 flood, Bloomsburg University students gave tremendously to the relief effort. In addition, the entire university community — faculty, staff, students, and administrators — came together and assisted in nearly every aspect of the relief.

We wanted to find out the exact details of the university involvement, so we went straight to the top.  Dr. David Soltz, the President of Bloomsburg University, recently took time from his busy schedule to answer questions related to the university’s role in the flood relief for Bloomsburg.  He also provided us with a detailed list of the facts and numbers associated with the university’s assistance to the effort.

Not only did the university community stick around to help, but they did so in a way that demonstrates a great deal of concern for the town they all call home — whether for four years or a lifetime.

Was there any official call from groups like The Red Cross or AGAPE, or did the Bloomsburg University community just respond to the flood relief spontaneously?

Initially the university responded spontaneously. As an official call was made, we responded directly to those needs, such as providing gloves for cleaning, food to AGAPE and porta-potties. Our efforts were coordinated with AGAPE. We sent buses to AGAPE to transport volunteers to locations where assistance was needed.

Are there housing issues that have arisen because of students whose residences were affected by flooding?

Fortunately, we were able to identify the potential number of students impacted early on and provide alternative housing options on campus or locally. Our Community Government Association (CGA) reached out to students, notifying them of CGA’s ability to assist them with replacing personal items and property lost, as well.

On a personal note, the tremendous involvement by the university community must make you proud.  Do you have any comments related to that?

I am very proud of the BU community. Their efforts made a great difference and exemplified our core values of community, collaboration, respect and integrity. We proudly served our close-knit community as a resource and with action.

Town and Gown relations can be difficult for any community or university.  Do you think the significant involvement in flood relief efforts will create new or ongoing opportunities for town and gown engagement?

Yes. Our involvement with the town recovery efforts has favorably changed the perception of BU faculty, staff and students for many town residents. They see us as a resource and neighbor. We’d like to continue to build upon that sense of community.

There seemed to be a heavy involvement from sports teams.  Which teams participated and who organized their efforts?

All sports teams were involved. The effort was organized by the Athletic Director Mike McFarland.

Do you have stories of faculty, staff, and students who were personally affected by the flooding?

44 faculty and staff were impacted. 120 students resided in the affected areas and an estimated 13 experienced significant loss.

Are there ongoing or future plans for flood relief assistance that will involve the university?

We are working with Bloomsburg School District to provide alternative venues for their athletic activities.  Acacia (a student greek organization) volunteered to help restore the local ball fields at Town Park.  We continue to provide assistance through a coordinated effort between BU’s SOLVE office and AGAPE.  And we currently are in discussion with town officials regarding other needs we may be able to help meet.

How can we better share these positive stories of town and gown engagement?

Communicate the outstanding academic accomplishments, community initiatives and programs that are taking place on BU’s campus. Many of our programs are open to the public and serve BU’s surrounding community, including the Celebrity Artist Series, reading and math programs, athletic camps, the Hearing and Speech Clinic, teaching and tutoring partnerships with the local school districts, and events sponsored by our living and learning communities that integrate the academic curriculum, leadership opportunities and civic engagement. Additionally, we need to communicate the impact of our students and faculty in their respective academic disciplines and local communities.

Bloomsburg University’s Involvement in Flood Recovery:  The Facts and Numbers

Approximately how many students helped in the flood recovery effort in Bloomsburg?  How many Faculty/Staff?

  • More than 350 students volunteered.
  • About 100 Greek students assisted in local homes and organized various aid drives in their hometowns. 95 percent of all fraternities and sororities participated in the cleanup in some way. All have plans to continue with their service projects.
  • Bloomsburg University provided 168 hours of support to the county through clerical staffing of the Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Phone Bank and other assistance to the Emergency Operations Center. 16 staff participated in this effort over the four-day period.
  • BU Athletic Department staff and athletic teams logged a total of 2,542 hours of volunteer time. Teams participating include: women’s basketball, wrestling, men’s soccer, cross country, men’s and women’s tennis, baseball, women’s soccer, men’s basketball, lacrosse, softball, football, field hockey and swimming.
  • University Police logged 83.25 hours in support of the town police.
  • Facilities Management logged 1,853 hours in support of the cleanup efforts in the town and the county.
What types of things did they work on?
  • BU buses and operators transported displaced residents to the Berwick emergency shelter.
  • 10 pieces of heavy equipment and operators assisted in cleanup efforts.
  • Student-athletes and other students assisted with cleanup efforts. For example:
– Kappa Sigma fraternity helped the cleanup in town.
– Nancy Gentile Ford, professor of history, volunteered with the local Red Cross from the first warning of the flood. Michelle Kurtz, a BU senior, was active with the Red Cross and posted many messages on Facebook leading others to the Red Cross.
– Chi Theta Pi sorority organized efforts to help clean local houses and worked at the shelter in Berwick.
– Delta Epsilon Beta sorority assisted with cleanup at the Barn at Boone’s Dam, helping owner and BU alumna Ruth Kranig ’94, who provided free meals for volunteers and those affected by flooding.
– BU student-athletes volunteered before and after their practices and competitions.
– BU field hockey and soccer teams ripped out a ruined floor on West Third Street.
– BU wrestling team demolished a ruined wall on West Third Street and emptied buckets of sludge from homes on Leonard Street.
  • Annie’s Place animal shelter on BU’s upper campus housed as many as 20 dogs and five cats.
  • We communicated all town information, including road closings and press releases, to the BU community (many of whom are town residents, PPL and United Water customers) via emails, texts, Web, radio and TV announcements.
  • Volunteers removed mud, dry wall and soiled belongings from homes.
  • Volunteers either helped homeowners clean and save them, or put them curbside for removal.
  • BU loaded a pickup truck with soft drink and Rita’s water ice and distributed the refreshments every afternoon to flood victims and their families for a break.
  • Volunteers washed loads of laundry.
  • BU purchased mops, buckets, latex gloves, work gloves, water, cleaning supplies, bleach, food and other supplies for donation.
  • Volunteers sorted and folded clothing at local churches for distribution and worked at the Wesley United Methodist Church/Caldwell Consistory serving food to flood victims.

What other types of flood assistance did the university provide to the town?

  • Supplied and placed 50 porta-potties in the Town of Bloomsburg
  • Bused student volunteers for house cleaning; provided transportation to and from the flood area for other volunteers
  • Collected and delivered cleaning supplies
  • Helped pump water out of homes with the fire department
  • Helped deliver drinking water, which was stored and distributed from BU’s upper campus
  • Provided large equipment, such as bulldozers to help with the cleanup
  • Housed the National Guard at Monty’s on BU’s upper campus

Deadline Nears to Apply for Disaster Assistance

The deadline is nearing for residents and business owners who had damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee to apply for disaster assistance. The registration deadline is November 14, 2011. The deadline to submit a disaster loan application to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for disaster-related losses is also November 14, 2011.

Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) urge anyone who has not applied for assistance to call FEMA if they suffered damage from the storms and live, work or own a business in one of the following counties designated under the disaster declarations: Adams, Berks, Bradford, Bucks, Chester, Columbia, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Luzerne, Lycoming, Monroe, Montgomery, Montour,  Northampton, Northumberland, Perry, Philadelphia, Pike, Schuylkill, Snyder, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Union, Wyoming or York County.

“Don’t miss out on the assistance that can help you recover,” said Federal Coordinating Officer Thomas J. McCool. “Even if you have insurance it may not cover certain costs resulting from the storms.”

FEMA’s 800 number is 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). Operators take calls seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Disaster assistance applicants who have a speech disability or hearing loss and use TTY, should call 1-800-462-7585 directly. For those who use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 1-800-621-3362. You can also register online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by smart phone or tablet at m.fema.gov. If you have a disability and need help registering, please don’t hesitate to contact FEMA to ask for help.

Applicants who have questions about the disaster assistance programs or questions about an application they already filed can call FEMA’s toll-free number listed above or visit a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC). To locate a DRC near you visit fema.gov/drclocator.

For more information about SBA, call the SBA Customer Service Center at 1-800-659-2955, between  8 a.m. and 9 p.m., Monday through Friday. Affected residents may apply online at disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/. Applicants may also visit the SBA Web site atwww.sba.gov/services/disasterassistance or e-mail disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.

FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

Article Courtesy of FEMA

Photo Courtesy of FEMA/Bill Koplitz