September 2017

Important phone numbers and websites

Pinellas County Emergency Management: (727) 464-3800 | www.pinellascounty.org/emergency

Find your evacuation level: (727) 453-3150 | www.pinellascounty.org/knowyourzone

Special Needs Registration: (727) 464-3800 | www.pinellascounty.org/forms/evac-assist.htm

Follow Pinellas County Emergency Management on Twitter | twitter.com/PinellasEM

Download the new Ready Pinellas app | www.pinellascounty.org/readypinellas

Sign up for Pinellas County's Emergency Notification Service Alert Pinellas: (866) 484-3264 | www.pinellascounty.org/alertpinellas

Set your Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) equipped all-hazards alert radio for Pinellas County: Enter code 012103

If you know someone who would like to receive the e-Lert newsletter, have them visit www.pinellascounty.org/emergency/subscribe.htm

 

Sally Says

Sally Bishop photoFrom the Desk of Pinellas County's Emergency Management Director

It Almost Happened Here

For years, Pinellas County has prepared for the worst-case scenario: a major hurricane slamming the coastline, with storm surge and high winds that devastate the area. As emergency managers, we try to convey to our residents and businesses the gravity of what could happen. What would 10, 20 or even 30 feet of storm surge look like? What would it do? What about winds that are 130, 150 mph or higher. Imagine the mobile home parks, beaches and other low-lying areas.

Then, in the beginning of September, we found ourselves earnestly preparing for that reality, as Hurricane Irma plotted a course headed straight at Florida as a Category 4 hurricane.  We did think it would take a run up the East Coast, but as we have seen before, hurricanes are fickle and Irma turned its eye to the west. In truth, the historically massive hurricane covered the entire state of Florida.

We thought our worst fears had materialized. And then, yet again, we were spared. Irma caused minimal storm surge (1-3’) and minimal flooding from rainfall. Reported wind gusts did not go over 90 mph. We know that many of our residents have suffered because of Irma. The effects of the strong wind caused damage to structures, and the extensive loss of power left many people without food or basic accommodations.

However, one needs only to look to Texas, our own Florida Keys and Puerto Rico to see what could have been. Our hearts and prayers go out to the many victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, three brutal storms that hit within one month.

I want to say that I am very proud of this community. Though you all understood that we did not know for sure what the ultimate path of this hurricane would be, you heeded our warnings. We have no way to estimate how many people evacuated. We know we sheltered more than 24,000 people, including 3,250 special needs residents. We also sheltered 2,032 pets.

We also heard many first-person accounts of family and friends that opened their homes to those who live in evacuation areas. We feel our community took this seriously and prepared early, evidenced by the crowds at the stores a full week before the hurricane hit the state. As a community, we pulled together and fared well and we continue to support each other as recovery continues and financial assistance is made available to our residents and businesses.

Did we learn lessons? Yes. But because we still have more than two months left to hurricane season, I urge you to process that knowledge quickly and adjust your personal emergency plans, replenish your hurricane kits and make preparations – just in case. Remember, we plan for the worst and hope for the best.  To assist you I strongly recommend you download and use our new “Ready Pinellas” application as it will help you through the planning process with things like “What Evacuation Zone am I in” and “How do I sign up to receive emergency information.” Here’s hoping for sunny skies!

Sally Bishop
Director, Pinellas County Emergency Management

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Assistance is available

Individuals who suffered property damage or loss directly caused by Hurricane Irma and who plan to seek disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are reminded that the first step is to register – regardless of the requested assistance. Individuals are urged to register as soon as possible.

Residents may register for FEMA assistance or via the FEMA app. The app is available for download through the Apple App Store or Google Play, by searching for FEMA. Residents may also register by calling 1-800-621-FEMA. 

When registering with FEMA, you must provide:

  • Social Security number
  • Address of the location where the damage occurred (pre-disaster address)
  • Current mailing address
  • Current telephone number
  • Insurance information
  • Total household annual income
  • Routing and account number for your checking or savings account
  • A description of your disaster-caused damage and losses

Applicants receive a nine-digit registration number for use when corresponding with FEMA. Keep this number on hand. It will be needed to update your application with any new information.

Some applicants may be required to submit a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) loan application before FEMA can determine their eligibility for assistance. The SBA offers low-interest disaster loans to businesses of all sizes, most private nonprofits, homeowners and renters. SBA loans can help you recover from losses not covered by insurance, grants or other sources.

The SBA also offers low-interest working capital loans (called Economic Injury Disaster Loans) to small businesses and most private nonprofits having difficulty meeting obligations as a result of the disaster. For more information, applicants may call SBA’s Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955, or visit SBA’s website at SBA.gov/disaster. Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals may call 800-877-8339.

What to Expect After You Apply

Within about 10 days of your application to FEMA, if you are uninsured or lack the appropriate insurance coverage, a qualified inspector will contact you to set up a time to see the damage to your property that was caused by the disaster. If you need language translation support during your inspection, including sign language, you can request it.

When a FEMA inspector arrives, he or she will display official photo identification. If it is not displayed, ask to see it and inspect it carefully. Your losses will be recorded and submitted to the Individual Housing Program (IHP).

Approximately 10 days after the inspection, you should have a decision from IHP about whether you qualify for help. If you have been referred for an SBA disaster loan, the SBA will also contact you and schedule an appointment to review your disaster‐related losses. It is critical that you complete the loan application process.  If it is approved, it provides funds from the low interest loan. If it is not approved, you may qualify for additional FEMA assistance, but not until the loan process is complete. 

If you are eligible for help, you should receive a U.S. Treasury/State check or notification of a deposit to your bank account within about 10 days of the inspector’s visit. Other types of assistance may be provided later, based on specific eligibility and need.

See detailed explanation of the process.

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Assistance in Pinellas County

Pinellas County: Hurricane Irma Response

Disaster assistance is available throughout Pinellas County. Please refer to the web links and phone numbers for more information on each.

Individuals

  • FEMA Assistance Individuals are encouraged to register online for assistance from FEMA at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or through the FEMA app to avoid long wait times on the phone. If you call, it is recommended you call early or late to avoid waiting. The phone number for register for assistance is 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) while those who use TTY can call 1-800-462-7585. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. EDT seven days a week. You may be referred to the Small Business Administration to review your disaster-related losses.
  • FEMA Critical Needs Assistance provides financial assistance to individuals and households who have immediate or critical needs because they are displaced from their home. This includes water, food, first aid, prescriptions, infant formula, diapers, consumable medical supplies, durable medical equipment, personal hygiene items and fuel for transportation. To register for FEMA assistance programs, go to www.DisasterAssistance.gov or use the FEMA App. If you do not have access to a computer or mobile device, call (800) 621-FEMA (3362) TTY 1-800-462-7585 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.
  • FEMA Disaster Survivor Assistance Team (DSAT) will be working at the Oldsmar Flea Market, 180 N. Racetrack Road, Oldsmar this Saturday, Sept. 30, and Sunday, Oct. 1. The Department of Children and Families (DCF), in partnership with USDA, opened a location for the Food for Florida Disaster Food Assistance Program on September 27. It will remain open to October 2 at Seminole Recreation Center, 9100 113th St. N., Seminole.
  • FEMA Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) is open in Hillsborough County to help Florida storm survivors. The DRC will be open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week until further notice at Hillsborough Community College - The Regent, 6437 Watson Road, Riverview, FL  33578. Regular hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week. As more centers open, survivors may locate a DRC near them at www.fema.gov/disaster-recovery-centers or by calling FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362.  That information is also available on the FEMA Mobile App.    
  • FEMA Generator Reimbursement for possible financial assistance to repair or replace a generator that was owned prior to the disaster. Individuals are encouraged to register online for assistance from FEMA at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or through the FEMA app. If you do not have access to a computer or mobile device, call (800) 621-FEMA (3362) TTY 1-800-462-7585 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.
  • Disaster Distress Helpline The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Disaster Distress Helpline (1-800-985-5990) remains open 24/7 for free help coping with the stress of the storm. This toll-free, multilingual, and confidential crisis support service is available to all residents in the United States and its territories. Stress, anxiety, and other depression-like symptoms are common reactions after a disaster.
  • Disaster Survival Assistance FEMA Disaster Survival Assistance personnel are available at Fire Station 45, Court St., Clearwater, from Sept. 29-Oct. 1. The last location will be Park Station, 5851 Park Blvd, Pinellas Park from October 2 – 4.  Hours of operation are from 8am to 6pm. to answer questions and help residents apply for disaster assistance. More locations throughout the county will be announced. Individuals are encouraged to register online for assistance from FEMA at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or through the FEMA app. If you do not have access to a computer or mobile device, call (800) 621-FEMA (3362) TTY 1-800-462-7585 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.  
  • Legal Assistance is offered by Gulfcoast Legal Services, a non-profit legal aid organization serving the Tampa Bay area. Services include FEMA assistance, landlord/tenant issues, public benefits, consumer protection/scams and domestic violence. For more information or to register, call (727) 821-0726 or visit their website at gulfcoastlegal.org. Se Habla Español.

Food

Housing

  • Blue Roof Program is a FEMA program managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the program provides homeowners in disaster areas with blue tarps, installed to provide temporary repairs and make the home livable until permanent repairs can be made. Homeowners need to go in person to the Right of Entry center at Indian Rocks Baptist Church, 12629 Ulmerton Road, Largo, Suite A. It will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week while demand lasts. Residents are encouraged to visit the center as soon as possible. Toll free 1-888-ROOF-BLU (1-888-766-3258) for a recorded message. To hear the information in Spanish call (800) 403-0573.
  • Florida Housing Search offers an extensive listing of available rental housing across Florida. You can search www.FloridaHousingSearch.org, email DIT@socialserve.com, or call toll-free at 877-428-8844. You can also visit Social Serve at www.socialserve.com/tenant/FL/index.html?type=rental. The status of available units listed on Florida Housing Search is updated frequently.  If needed, call center specialists are available to provide assistance in conducting searches.
  • Immediate Foreclosure Relief from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures and forbearance on foreclosures of Federal Housing Administration (FHA)-insured home mortgages. HUD is also offering longer-term recovery assistance to survivors and impacted communities. For more information, visit HUD’s website.
  • Individuals and Households Program is a FEMA program that provides financial and direct services to eligible individuals and households affected by a disaster who have uninsured or underinsured necessary expenses and serious needs. To register for FEMA assistance programs, go to www.DisasterAssistance.gov or use the FEMA App. If you do not have access to a computer or mobile device, call (800) 621-FEMA (3362) TTY 1-800-462-7585 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.
  • Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) is a FEMA form of assistance for eligible disaster survivors that are unable to return to their homes for an extended period of time and who have a continuing need for shelter. This initiative is intended to provide short-term lodging for eligible disaster survivors whose residence is uninhabitable or inaccessible due to a declared disaster. TSA covers room and taxes. To register for FEMA assistance programs, go to www.DisasterAssistance.gov or use the FEMA App. If you do not have access to a computer or mobile device, call (800) 621-FEMA (3362) TTY 1-800-462-7585 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week until further notice. The assistance has been extended for some registrants to Oct. 7.

Businesses, Individuals and Non-Profits

  • Business Recovery Center Pinellas County Economic Development has partnered with the Small Business Administration to open a Business Recovery Center at its location (13805 58th St. N. #1, Largo). Business owners who experienced storm damage to their business can stop by for loan assistance information. Interested applicants may also call (727) 453-7200 for more information. The Business Recovery Center will be open this week from 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
  • Extended IRS Deadlines Hurricane Irma victims in Florida have until Jan. 31, 2018, to file certain individual and business tax returns and make certain tax payments. The tax relief postpones various tax filing and payment deadlines that occurred starting on Sept. 4, 2017 in Florida. www.irs.gov/newsroom/help-for-victims-of-hurricane-irma

Businesses

  • Disaster Unemployment Assistance Program Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) Program offers assistance to businesses and residents whose employment or self-employment was lost or interrupted due to Irma. For more information or to file for DUA www.floridajobs.org/ or call (800) 385-3920.
  • Short-Term Florida Disaster Business Bridge Loan provides short-term funding until an SBA Loan or insurance reimbursement arrives. The purpose of the Emergency Bridge Loan Program is to provide a source of expedient cash flow to Florida small businesses impacted by a disaster. Program: www.floridadisasterloan.org.

Volunteers & Donations

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