Shawnee/Pottawatomie County Emergency Management Director Don Lynch said he continues to encourage people whose homes and businesses were damaged by severe weather between May 7 to June 9 to register with FEMA if they have not already done so.

Shawnee/Pottawatomie County Emergency Management Director Don Lynch said he continues to encourage people whose homes and businesses were damaged by severe weather between May 7 to June 9 to register with FEMA if they have not already done so.

This week people have been able register for disaster assistance at the Mobile Disaster Recovery Center (DRC), but that opportunity was shortened due to a miscommunication in the availability of a space to park. The office on wheels had to pack up after discovering the parking lot at Gordon Cooper Technology Center was prepping for a fair Thursday. As a result, the DRC in Pottawatomie County closed Wednesday, two days sooner than planned.

FEMA Media Relations Manager Carmen G. Rodriguez said many options are still on-hand for residents who wish to register for aid.

“The registration helpline is still available,” Rodriguez said. “There are still other locations open where residents can go; the nearest one now is in El Reno.”

Registering online or by phone are options, as well.

For assistance, call FEMA at 1 (800) 621-3362.

Also, applicants can visit a state/federal Disaster Recovery Center (DRC). The locations of DRCs in Oklahoma can be found at fema.gov/ESF6/DRCLocator.

Avoid trouble

When making repairs, be sure the contractors are credible, officials warn.

“Remember neither FEMA, the State of Oklahoma, nor any local government recommends or endorses any contractor,” Lynch said. “People should be leery of any contractor who claims to have authorization by FEMA, the state or local government — they do not.”

Rodriguez said the same thing.

Any time money is being given out to help, there are going to be people trying to take it away from those who are being helped.

State and federal recovery officials urge residents affected by the disaster to watch for and report any suspicious activity or potential fraud.

As government agencies and charitable groups begin providing disaster assistance, scam artists, identity thieves and other criminals may attempt to prey on vulnerable survivors. The most common post-disaster fraud practices include phony housing inspectors, fraudulent building contractors, bogus pleas for disaster donations and fake offers of state or federal aid.

Local, state, tribal and federal government officials advise all residents that no individual with a government disaster assistance agency will call or text asking for financial account information.

Survivors also should keep in mind that federal and state workers never ask for or accept money and always carry identification badges. There is no fee required to apply for or to get disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Small Business Administration or the state.

Scam attempts can be made over the phone, by mail or email, text or in person. Unfortunately, there seems to be no limit to the inventiveness of those wanting to commit fraud. Residents are asked to remain alert, ask questions and require photo identification when someone claims to represent a government agency.

Those who question the validity of a contact or suspect fraud are encouraged to call the toll-free FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at (866) 720-5721. Complaints also may be made by contacting local law enforcement agencies.

Permits

Also, Lynch said getting appropriate permitting is important.

“Citizens are reminded to get proper permits when rebuilding their damaged property,” he said. “Every part of a building — from roofs, walls and siding to plumbing, septic systems and heating/air conditioning systems — may require a permit before rebuilding.”

A permit may also be needed for demolition, he said.

Permits protect owners, residents, communities and buildings, Lynch said, by making sure repairs and/or construction meet current building codes, standards, floodplain ordinances and construction techniques. Permits also provide a permanent record of compliance with elevation and/or retrofitting requirements, which is valuable information when selling the structure or obtaining flood insurance coverage, he said.

“Obtaining building permits is especially important for those whose homes or businesses are located within a FEMA-mapped floodplain,” he said. “However, residents rebuilding after the recent disaster in Oklahoma need to know that building permits are based on local codes and ordinances that are enforced locally, not by FEMA.”

Lynch warned if proper permits are not obtained, residents may be subject to stop-work orders, fines or penalties.

Contacting your community’s Floodplain Administrator may also provide information on how to find licensed contractors. These offices can provide suggestions on consumer protection against unscrupulous contractors, as well as how to protect homes or businesses from future disaster-related damage, Lynch said.

Lynch said the Pottawatomie County floodplain administrator is Tommy Arnold, who can be contacted at (405) 878-5528.

“Shawnee’s Floodplain Administrator is Shawnee City Engineer Micheal Ludi,” he said. “He may be contacted at (405) 878-1660.”

Flood insurance

Rodriguez said anyone who receives flood disaster assistance through FEMA’s Individuals & Households Program (IHP) may qualify to receive a Group Flood Insurance Policy (GFIP) from FEMA. They must meet an income needs requirement and be ineligible for a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan to receive a Group Flood Insurance Policy. If these requirements are met, they will receive a Certificate of Insurance showing they have flood insurance through the GFIP. The GFIP premium is deducted from their disaster assistance grant.

A GFIP covers both the building and contents, or just contents if the individual is a renter. There is a separate deductible of $200 for the building and $200 for the contents.

The GFIP provides flood coverage for up to three years. A policyholder may choose to upgrade coverage (up to $250,000) by switching to an individual flood insurance policy at any point during the term.

The requirement to purchase flood insurance coverage applies to insurable buildings and personal property damaged by a flood disaster event and located in areas at high risk of flooding called Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs).

Homeowners who receive federal flood disaster assistance must acquire and maintain flood insurance for their building. If they sell their home at any time after receiving flood assistance, they must inform the new owners of the requirement to maintain flood insurance coverage. In most cases, an existing flood insurance policy transfers to the new owner with no lapse in coverage.

Renters who receive federal flood disaster assistance must maintain flood insurance coverage for as long as they live at the flood-damaged rental property. The flood insurance requirement ends if they move from that property.