Federal Disaster Agencies
For victims of a major catastrophe, the point of contact for assistance is the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which manages relief programs.
Information about disaster assistance from the U.S. government before, during, and after a disaster for individuals can be found at www.disasterassistance.gov. For help with online FEMA services, call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) (seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time) or email AskFEMA@mailps.custhelp.com. 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, call 1-800-621-3362 (both available seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time).
Victims of a disaster can apply for aid online or through FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers established in areas struck by a natural catastrophe. FEMA provides a DRC Locator service that can be accessed via mobile phone:
To search for DRCs: Text DRC and a ZIP Code to 43362 (4FEMA)
To search for Shelters: Text SHELTER and a ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA)
For businesses affected by a natural disaster, the Small Business Administration offers disaster loans through a separate program, found online at www.sba.gov. Loan applicants may also apply in person at any Disaster Recovery Center through an SBA representative
Additionally, victims may contact the American Red Cross at www.redcross.org or 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767)
Additional information for flooding disasters
Those affected by flooding who have flood insurance coverage should file their claim by contacting their insurance agent. According to FEMA, an adjuster should contact you within a few days of filing your claim. If you do not hear from an adjuster, you can contact your insurance agent or company again. Make sure you have the following information handy:
The name of your insurance company
Your policy number
A telephone and/or email address where you can be reached at all times
Information about the National Flood Insurance Program can be found online at www.FloodSmart.gov. For general flood insurance questions, call 1-800-427-4661 or contact your insurance company or agent. For more information on filing a claim, visit www.FloodSmart.gov.
The first line of defense when disaster strikes are local authorities and agencies. The system is designed from a “bottom-up” perspective as local authorities appeal for assistance from state governments, which may then appeal for federal assistance.
The disaster response system is governed by the National Response Framework, under which different agencies have different roles in responding to disasters under the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Phone: (800) 621-FEMA (3362)
TTY: (800) 462-7585
The FEMA administrator is the principal figure in disaster response, advising both the president and the secretary of Homeland Security regarding emergency management. The administrator is responsible for operating the National Response Coordination Center and supporting all emergency response functions.
FEMA also maintains operations to provide immediate support in disaster recovery. The groups include:
- Hurricane Liaison Team. The HLT is a small team designed to improve hurricane disaster response by overseeing the exchange of information between different federal agencies, such as the National Hurricane Center in Miami and other National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and officials at the federal, state, and local levels.
- Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces includes 28 teams that can be deployed to help local government in rescue operations after structural collapse or in other circumstances. Task forces can be deployed within hours, and provide needed tools, equipment, skills and techniques.
- Mobile Emergency Response Support provides telecommunications capabilities and logistical, operational, and power-generation support required for the onsite management of response activities. MERS falls into three broad categories: (1) operational support elements (2) communications equipment and operators and (3) logistics support.
Federal Agencies with Disaster Response
Earthquake activities at the Federal Emergency Management Agency are coordinated by an earthquake program team at FEMA headquarters, working in concert with regional earthquake program managers in the FEMA regional offices. These personnel are known collectively as the FEMA NEHRP team because their activities are supported through FEMA's participation in the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program.
ANSS – Advanced National Seismic System
The National Hurricane Center is a component of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction located at Florida International University in Miami. It issues watches, warnings, forecasts, and analyses of hazardous tropical weather.
The Central Pacific Hurricane Center issues tropical cyclone warnings, watches, advisories, discussions, and statements for all tropical cyclones in the Central Pacific.
Joint Typhoon Warning Center also provides warnings, watches and advisories for cyclones in the Pacific, as well as the Indian Ocean.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
The USACE can also provide estimates of the potential amount of debris, the needs for water and ice, and the number of people and households estimated to be in the path of hurricane force winds using geospatial tools roughly three days ahead of a projected storm landfall. The estimates are posted at www.englink.usace.army.mil.
Part of the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency, the United States Fire Administration works to promote preparedness and safety from fires.
The National Fire Information Council collects and provides fire-related emergency-response information to better assess and mitigate fire in communities and on a national level. The program collects incident and casualty reports from participating local fire departments, consolidates that information, and provides it to local and national authorities.
The National Interagency Fire Center supports wildland firefighting. It is the sole dispatch center for heavy air tankers, lead planes, smokejumpers, hotshot crews, Type 1 Incident Management Teams, area command teams, medium and heavy helicopters, infrared aircraft, military resources, telecom equipment for fires, Remote Automated Weather Stations, and large transport aircraft.
The NOAAWatch website provides information about ongoing environmental events and the role of NOAA in predicting, monitoring, and recovery from environmental hazards. It provides current information on environmental threats ranging from oil spills to hurricanes and tsunamis to space weather.