News Details

County Tabulates Storm Damage and Awaits President’s Decision on FEMA

(Woodbury, NJ) – As showers continue today after the weekend’s Nor’ Easter which flooded basements and caused road damage, the Gloucester County Office of Emergency Management has submitted its estimates of damage to the State Office of Emergency Management. 

The Gloucester County Board of Freeholders are hopeful that the President will declare the storm a disaster for Gloucester County so that funding will be available both to the government and to private citizens to help cover the costs of repairs to their homes.

“It’s been estimated that 450 homes throughout the county have about $2.2 million in damages, and that number will probably continue to climb,” stated Freeholder Director Stephen M. Sweeney.  “People are going to need some financial relief and that is why it is important for the President to declare a disaster here.”

Sweeney said that in addition to private homes, the county estimates about $300,000 in losses to local government for damaged road, public facilities and overtime for fire companies who have been pumping basements.  “If a disaster is declared then the governments can apply for up to 75% reimbursement on these costs that were not budgeted for,” stated Sweeney.

Freeholder Helene M. Reed, liaison to the Office of Emergency Management said that the local emergency coordinators have been gathering reports and submitting them to the county, who in turn submits them to the State Office of Emergency Management.  The state tabulates all of the damages from all of the counties and then submits that information to the White House.

“We are hopeful that the President will declare the disaster for the sake of our residents,” said Reed.  “If you don’t have flood or other special insurance the only other avenue for funding repairs and replacement to ones property is through FEMA, that is why it is so important,” Freeholder Reed stated.

Reed said that the County’s Office of Emergency Management has received dozens of phone calls from residents asking what to do about flooded basements and how to receive financial relief.  “We are giving information to citizens at this time on how to handle their flooded home and telling them that as soon as the county finds out if a disaster has been declared we will let them know how to apply for aid,” Reed said.

The Freeholders said that if the President declares a disaster for Gloucester County, then the following steps from FEMA should be taken for residents to apply for assistance:

How do I apply for disaster help?
If you live in a disaster area declared by the President and need disaster help you can apply online at http://www.fema.gov/assistance/process/index.shtm using the Online Individual Assistance Center and the screens will prompt you through the process.
You may also register by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) (hearing/speech impaired call TTY: 1-800-462-7585). If you get a busy signal when you call the toll-free number try calling in the evening after 10:00 p.m. or on the weekends when fewer people are trying to call.
When you apply you should have a pen and paper available to write down important phone contacts. You will need your social security number, current and pre-disaster address, phone numbers, type of insurance coverage, total household annual income, and a routing and account number from your bank if you want to have disaster assistance funds transferred directly into your bank account. If you do not have your bank routing number you can find it on the Federal Reserve Financial Services website.

After You Apply:

What happens after I apply for disaster assistance?
FEMA will mail you a copy of your application and a copy of:  ‘Help After a Disaster: Applicant's Guide to the Individuals and Households Program?’ which should answer many of your questions.

  • If your home or its contents are damaged and you do not have insurance an inspector should contact you within 10 to 14 days after you apply to schedule a time to meet you at your damaged home. In areas where access is still severely limited, it may take longer for an inspection.
  • If your home or its contents were damaged and you have insurance you need to work through your insurance claim first and provide FEMA with a decision letter (settlement or denial) from your insurance company before FEMA issues an inspection. ***There is an exception for damages caused by flooding; if you have flood insurance, FEMA will issue an inspection before receiving a copy of your flood insurance decision letter to evaluate your eligibility for temporary living expenses because temporary living expenses are not covered by flood insurance.
  • About 10 days after the inspection FEMA will decide if you qualify for assistance. If you qualify for a grant FEMA will send you a check by mail or deposit it in your bank account. FEMA will also send you a letter describing how you are to use the money (for example: repairs to your home or to rent another house while you make repairs).
  • If FEMA decides that you do not qualify for a grant FEMA will send you a letter explaining why you were turned down and give you a chance to appeal the decision. Appeals must be in writing and mailed within 60 days of FEMA's decision.
  • If you get a SBA Disaster Loan application in the mail, you must complete and return the application to be considered for a loan as well as certain types of grant assistance. SBA representatives are available at Disaster Recovery Centers to help you with the application. If the SBA finds that you cannot afford a loan they will automatically refer you to FEMA's Individual and Household grant program for help.
  • If the SBA approves you for a loan, they will contact you. If the SBA finds that you cannot afford a loan, FEMA will contact you.

The Gloucester County Board of Freeholders and Office of Emergency Management offer the following information from the American Red Cross’s guide to
“Repairing Your Flooded Home”

Stay out of any building if flood waters remain around the building. Flood waters often undermine foundations, causing sinking, floors can crack or break and buildings can collapse.

    • Avoid entering ANY building (home, business, or other) before local officials have said it is safe to do so. Buildings may have hidden damage that makes them unsafe. Gas leaks or electric or waterline damage can create additional problems.
    • Report broken utility lines to the appropriate authorities. Reporting potential hazards will get the utilities turned off as quickly as possible, preventing further hazard and injury. Check with your utility company now about where broken lines should be reported.
    • Avoid smoking inside buildings. Smoking in confined areas can cause fires.
    • When entering buildings, use extreme caution. Building damage may have occurred where you least expect it. Watch carefully every step you take.
    • Wear sturdy shoes. The most common injury following a disaster is cut feet.
    • Use battery-powered lanterns or flashlights when examining buildings. Battery-powered lighting is the safest and easiest, preventing fire hazard for the user, occupants, and building.
    • Examine walls, floors, doors, staircases, and windows to make sure that the building is not in danger of collapsing.
    • Inspect foundations for cracks or other damage. Cracks and damage to a foundation can render a building uninhabitable.
    • Look for fire hazards. There may be broken or leaking gas lines, flooded electrical circuits, or submerged furnaces or electrical appliances. Flammable or explosive materials may travel from upstream. Fire is the most frequent hazard following floods.
    • Check for gas leaks. If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and quickly leave the building. Turn off the gas at the outside main valve if you can and call the gas company from a neighbor's home. If you turn off the gas for any reason, it must be turned back on by a professional.
    • Look for electrical system damage. If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, or if you smell burning insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. If you have to step in water to get to the fuse box or circuit breaker, call an electrician first for advice. Electrical equipment should be checked and dried before being returned to service.
    • Check for sewage and waterline damage. If you suspect sewage lines are damaged, avoid using the toilets and call a plumber. If water pipes are damaged, contact the water company and avoid using water from the tap. You can obtain safe water from undamaged water heaters or by melting ice cubes.
    • Watch out for animals that may have come into buildings with the flood waters. Use a stick to poke through debris. Flood waters flush snakes and many animals out of their homes.
    • Watch for loose plaster, drywall, and ceilings that could fall.
    • Take pictures of the damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance claims.

    After returning home:

    • Throw away food that has come in contact with flood waters. Some canned foods may be salvageable. If the cans are dented or damaged, throw them away. Food contaminated by flood waters can cause severe infections.
    • If water is of questionable purity, boil or add bleach, and distill drinking water before using.  Wells inundated by flood waters should be pumped out and the water tested for purity before drinking. If in doubt, call your local public health authority. Ill health effects often occur when people drink water contaminated with bacteria and germs.
    • Pump out flooded basements gradually (about one-third of the water per day) to avoid structural damage. If the water is pumped completely in a short period of time, pressure from water-saturated soil on the outside could cause basement walls to collapse.
    • Service damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits, and leaching systems as soon as possible. Damaged sewage systems are health hazards.