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Wildfire survivors can take steps to speed disaster assistance

Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry and wife, Kim view the devastation caused by the 2009 wildfires in Oklahoma. OK residents have been advised what steps to take to hasten disaster assistance
Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry and wife Kim view the devastation caused by the 2009 wildfires in Oklahoma
Advice for OK residents to hasten disaster assistance

Oklahoma residents affected by wildfires can speed disaster assistance by understanding and preparing for on-site property inspections that determine eligibility, state and federal emergency managers said today.

Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management (OEM) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials said that the first step in getting help is to register with FEMA. If you live in one of the nine counties where President Obama has authorized aid to individuals and if your property sustained damages from the wildfires that occurred April 9-12, 2009, you should call toll-free 800-621-FEMA (3362) or, (TTY) 800-462-7585. You also can register via FEMA's website.

Carter, Cleveland, Grady, Lincoln, McClain, Murray, Oklahoma, Payne and Stephens counties are covered by the presidential wildfire disaster declaration of June 19.

When you register, you are assigned a FEMA application number. If you have questions after you apply, or if the information you provide changes, call the FEMA toll-free number. When calling, have your application number ready.

After you apply, an inspector will contact you to make an appointment to visit your property and assess the damage related to the wildfire disaster. There is no fee for the inspection. Although inspectors are contractors, not FEMA employees, they will have FEMA identification. You must be present for your scheduled appointment so you can provide the inspector with proof of ownership and occupancy.

Proof of ownership can be shown by your deed, tax records, mortgage payment book, or a copy of your dwelling's insurance policy showing your address and listing you as the owner. Your address as it appears on your driver's license, any first-class government mail sent to you within the last three months or recent utility bills in your name at that address can provide proof of occupancy.

The inspector will ask you to sign a form authorizing FEMA to verify the information you have provided. Inspectors file your report but do not determine your eligibility.

Following the inspector's visit, you will receive a letter from FEMA informing you of the decision regarding your request for help. If you are eligible, the letter will be followed by a U.S. Treasury check or a transfer of funds to your bank account. The letter will explain how the money can be used. You should use the money given to you as explained in the letter.

If you are not eligible for help, the letter will explain why and inform you of your right to appeal FEMA's decision.

FEMA also may refer you to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for an SBA low-interest disaster loan. You automatically will be mailed an SBA application package. It is essential to complete and return the SBA application to ensure you are considered for all disaster assistance programs.

Residents and business owners can receive more information about SBA disaster loans and assistance with the application process by calling the SBA at 800-659-2955, by e-mail at, or by visiting the SBA website. The TTY number is 800-877-8339.

FEMA leads and supports the nation in a risk-based, comprehensive emergency management system of preparedness, protection, response, recovery, and mitigation, to reduce the loss of life and property and protect the nation from all hazards including natural disasters, acts of terrorism, and other man-made disasters.

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