By Trishna Buch
When it comes to disasters—both natural and manmade—these really show what people are truly like. Hurricane Harvey has brought out the best in people; with individuals volunteering their time to help serve food, rebuild homes and provide support to the people that have been most affected by the storm. Unfortunately, Harvey has also brought out the worst in people, with several rumors being spread around the internet. Fortunately, the website for the Federal Emergency Management Agency—FEMA—is taking steps to stop these rumors in their tracks at fema.gov/disaster/4332/updates/rumor-control.
First: hotels that are participating in the Transitional Sheltering Assistance must allow pets in their locations. This is false. People are urged to call a hotel to double check their policy on pets; but keep in mind that service animals are required to be accepted in hotels.
Second: Harvey will bring about a plague. This is completely inaccurate. Not only are cases of plague rare, plague caused by fleas and rodents. You might also hear that exposure to flood water increases exposure to tetanus. Unlikely, however, an open would does increase the possibility of exposure to bacteria and a tetanus shot under those circumstances would be wise.
Third: Until FEMA can assist your home, do not remove any flooring, carpet or sheetrock that has been affected by the floods. FEMA will not disqualify anyone from receiving aid and, in fact, they urge you to begin your clean-up as soon as possible. Just remember to take documentation of all the damage occurred.
Fourth: FEMA has created a list that dictates which businesses can work in a disaster area. There is no list created by the agency, and it is only local officials who can control access to disaster areas. Officials will assess the danger of these areas before allowing businesses and the public to operate in the vicinity.
Fifth: FEMA is hiring field inspectors to earn up to $5000 per week. This was true, however, the date to apply for these jobs has passed. Fortunately, FEMA is still looking to hire individuals. If you are interested in helping the agency, go online to careers.fema.gov/hurricane-harvey to see how you can help.
Sixth: Texas State House Bill 1774 meant that people should file a flood insurance claim by September 1. This is inaccurate. The bill does not affect policies or claims related to flood insurance, but you are urged to file your claim as soon as you can—in order to start recovery.
FEMA inspectors will never ask for personal information, they will only ask you to verify your identity. The only time you will provide personal information will be when you first apply for FEMA help or contact FEMA to follow-up an application. If you believe you have been the victim of fraud, you can call the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721.
Please take the time to visit FEMA’s website to review these rumors. Pass them around to your family and friends. In times like this it is important to keep your wits about you so that you can know what is the real deal.