DisasterAssistance.gov is the official website devoted to helping disaster survivors. It’s a portal to help survivors locate more than 70 forms of assistance across 17 federal agencies via the internet using their desktop computer, tablet or mobile device. Using prescreening technology, DisasterAssistance.gov offers an anonymous questionnaire that generates a personalized list of assistance a survivor can apply for based on the answers. The site also provides other disaster-related information and resources to help before, during and after a disaster.

DisasterAssistance.gov continues to provide avenue for assistance following severe flooding in Lousiana and Texas

During the first weeks of August 2016, areas in Texas and southern Louisiana saw extremely devastating flooding. Shortly after the flooding, the President declared the area a major disaster and opened it for Federal individual assistance. DisasterAssistance.gov emerged as the leading avenue for people to apply for disaster assistance with 67% of all registrations coming in through the online portal. The registration period ends October 13, 2016, so registrations are still coming in at the time of publication. Between August 11 (when the flooding began) and August 31, 2016 there has been 1,099,335 unique and returning visitors to the website, a large surge in activity. In addition, nearly 70% of all site traffic came from mobile devices. The increase in web applications is making a significant impact to the easing the call volume on the FEMA call centerand surge capacity by allowing disaster survivors to self-serve on the web portal. 

The areas devastated are still very much still in clean up and rebuild mode. There are a number of resources still available to disaster survivors and their families on DisasterAssistance.gov as well as Ready.gov and FEMA.gov. Survivors can also reach FEMA via:

  1. Call 800-621-3362 (711 or Video Relay Service). If you use TTY, call 800-462-7585.
  2. Visit a Disaster Recovery Center.

(Photo Credit: FEMA Photo Library)

    DARE (Disaster Assistance Reengineering Effort) Update

     

    The Disaster Assistance Reengineering Effort (DARE) is a multi-year modernization initiative to create a more survivor-centric portal for disaster assistance. 

     

    As development work continues building prototypes, the DAIP-DARE team anticipates quarterly releases. We will hold Integrated Project Team (IPT) meetings during various stages of progress to allow stakeholders the opportunity to review and discuss. Subject matter experts will also be invited to join, as needed, to assist in developing requirements. And we highly encourage ideas and suggestions!

     

    Project Update: The focus of Release 1 was building, in a simulated environment, a new survivor dashboard for Applicant Inquiry (which is a survivor account). Release 2 continued to build onto that foundation. 

     

    Now we have the ability to pull in data from test cases and view the following:

     

    • Status of FEMA applications
    • Assistance types
    • Pending actions We can also view account details including:  

     

    • Mailing address
    • Phone numbers 
    • Email address
    • Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) information
    • Insurance information
    • Correspondence preferences

     We anticipate rolling out Release 3 at the end of November. The new dashboard functionality we are working on for this release includes: 

     

    • The ability to update information.
    • The ability to view documents sent by FEMA.
    • The ability to upload documents. Unfortunately the disaster in Louisiana required all hands on deck, so we were unable to hold our IPT meeting for Release 2. We will try to reschedule once disaster support activity slows down. 

    Moving Ahead: During the disaster activity in Louisiana, problems were identified in the current registration intake and account management systems. In response to this, DAIP is putting a stronger focus on making changes to the current system, to help improve the disaster survivor experience in the shortest amount of time. IPTs will still be an important part of this effort.  All work completed for DARE to date is being reviewed to determine the feasibility of bringing some features into our current system.

     

    FEMA Hosts Inaugural Surge Summit

     

    On July 27, 2016 in Washington, DC, FEMA hosted its inaugural Surge Summit, a conference centered around providing extra support after a disaster.

     

    FEMA is constantly reviewing its processes, plans, and partnerships, which helps it to maintain readiness and improve upon its response and recovery efforts.  For the majority of disaster declarations, FEMA is adequately staffed to support them. But it must also be prepared for the next “big one,” yet still be a good steward of the taxpayer dollar.  One way FEMA can do this is through surge planning and readiness.  (Photo Credit: FEMA Photo Library)

     

    The first and sometimes only contact survivors have with FEMA is when they apply for assistance through FEMA’s Contact Center. During a catastrophic disaster, incoming call volume can quickly exceed the capabilities of the contact center.  When this occurs, the contact center surges and brings on additional staff to help support the load.  

     

    FEMA launched the Surge Summit to support the goal of continuous improvement.  Approximately 30 leaders from various parts of FEMA attended, many of whom met for the first time. The summit allowed attendees to focus and gain a better understanding of three main points: 

     

    • What the current contact center surge strategy is, 
    • What the challenges are, and 
    • How we can best move forward collaboratively.   

    As the summit expands in the future, FEMA will reach out to its external partners to encourage their support and invite them to join in. This will make FEMA even better prepared to support survivors as our partnerships grow. (Photo Credit: FEMA Surge Summit. From left: Monty LeMaire, Candita Sabavala, Jose Ramos-Fantauzzi, Dinora Reyes, and Melissa Stone)

     

    DisasterAssistance.gov Site Metrics October 1, 2015-August 31, 2016

    Department of Agriculture | Department of Commerce | Department of Defense
    Department of Education | Department of Health and Human Services
    Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency
    Department of Housing and Urban Development | Department of the Interior
    Department of Justice | Department of Labor | Department of State
    Department of Transportation | Department of the Treasury
    Department of Veteran Affairs | Office of Personnel Management
    Small Business Administration | Social Security Administration

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