Tag Archives: disaster aid

Claiborne Community Plans for Storm Clouds Ahead

Capital News Service

CLAIBORNE — Claiborne was spared last year when Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on fishing towns just down the shoreline.

But few of the sleepy communities that dot the Eastern Shore are likely better prepared for the worst than this unincorporated enclave of 100 residents.

A couple years ago, they pooled more than $55,000 of their own money, without any outside help, to transform an old wood church into a community center for potlucks and a disaster refuge for storms.

Not coincidentally, the greater Claiborne area is home to a host of “disaster junkies,” as they call themselves. They include the president of a disaster communication company, a former national Red Cross executive, a former director for Organization of American States — and Jack Harrald, the director of the Center for Community Security and Resilience at Virginia Tech.

The seaside enclave is located down a narrow, flat, bumpy road, just 10 miles west of St. Michaels. Century-old homes with water views rest snugly alongside each other. There are boats in their backyards, and residents have access to a small, hidden beach.

Harrald has been the driving force behind the Claiborne’s grassroots disaster planning. He and his wife bought a second home there in 2003, while he was still director of the George Washington University Institute for Crisis, Disaster and Risk Management. They have lived in the community full time since his retirement in 2008. He has since established a new center at Virginia Tech.

The Claiborne homeowner’s association acquired the vacant Methodist church in 2011 and christened it Claiborne Village Hall, with the intention of creating a community gathering place for poetry nights, book clubs and concerts.

Harrald said he and other community leaders also proposed developing a disaster plan that would use the church, which sits on high ground, for emergency assistance and supplies. They were inspired by the near misses of hurricanes Irene and Sandy and by projections of an increase in the severity of storms and flooding due to climate change.

During community discussions about emergency preparedness and evacuations, many people admitted they would not evacuate during a major storm, he said. That presented a problem for disaster planning.

“There’s a consensus that people should leave early,” he said, citing heavy traffic on major roadways as a problem. “If you don’t leave early, you have to be prepared to ride it out.”

So he proposed adding emergency electricity, a septic system, a water service and a full kitchen and bathroom and to the community center, since the village runs on two wells. The renovations would provide residents with a temporary place to cook meals and sleep while they fixed their homes or, in a worst-case scenario, rode out the storm.

“The community would have access to immediate assistance in the aftermath of disasters,” Harrald said.

He applied for about $50,000 of Hurricane Sandy disaster funds from the Maryland Emergency Management Agency for the project. But the state rejected his application about a month ago, explaining in a letter that the project did not meet eligibility requirements to qualify for funding under the Hazard Mitigation Grant program.

Funneled from the national level to the state governments, the funds often have strict requirements for use, making it harder for innovative proposals to qualify, said Chris Cortina, the coastal planning and community coordinator at the state’s Department of Natural Resources.

Harrald is revising the proposal and plans to resubmit.

In fact, he hopes to get government buy-in for making the Claiborne project a prototype that could be replicated and adapted to other communities that stand in harm’s way.

“I think there should be a change in funding, from post-event recovery to pre-event planning,” he said. “These investments can lower emergency costs later.”



Disaster Aid Deadline Extended

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Maryland Emergency Management Agency announced today the deadline to apply for disaster aid for damages resulting from Hurricane Sandy is being extended to February 26.

“There are still people registering every day,” said Mike Lapinski, Federal Coordinating Officer. “We don’t want people with uninsured damages to their homes or businesses to miss the opportunity to register. That is why we are extending the deadline.”

February 26 will be the last day for residents to apply for state and federal disaster assistance to help them recover from the Hurricane Sandy. Additionally, February 26 will be the deadline for homeowners and businesses to submit applications for low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

The fastest and easiest way to register is by visiting www.disasterassistance.gov. You may also register on your smartphone atm.fema.gov. If you do not have access to the internet, you may call FEMA’s toll-free hotline at
1-800-621-FEMA (3362), or TTY 1-800-462-7585 for the deaf or hard of hearing. Telephone lines are open from 7 am to 10 pm, seven days a week until further notice, and multilingual operators are also available to answer your call.).

After the application deadline, FEMA’s toll-free phone line still will be available to assist those who have already registered. Applicants who have questions about disaster assistance programs or questions about the status of their previously filed applications should continue to use FEMA’s toll-free number.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers low-interest loans for individuals and businesses to repair or replace damaged property.

Applicants who have been referred to SBA must complete and return the SBA disaster loan application to be eligible for additional assistance under the part of the Other Needs Assistance (ONA) program that covers personal property, vehicle repair or replacement, and moving and storage expenses. There are other ONA grants such as public transportation expenses, medical and dental expenses, and funeral and burial expenses that do not require individuals to apply for an SBA loan to be eligible.

Applicants may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via SBA’s secure website at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.

Disaster loan information and application forms may also be obtained by calling the SBA’s Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 (800-877-8339 for the deaf and hard-of-hearing) or by sending an email to disastercustomerservice@sba.gov. Loan applications can be downloaded from www.sba.gov. Completed applications should be mailed to: U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.

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.

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 800-621-FEMA (3362). For TTY call 800-462-7585.

FEMA’s temporary housing assistance and grants for public transportation expenses, medical and dental expenses, and funeral and burial expenses do not require individuals to apply for an SBA loan. However, applicants who receive SBA loan applications must submit them to SBA loan officers to be eligible for assistance that covers personal property, vehicle repair or replacement, and moving and storage expenses.