FEMA Continues Hurricane Fiona Response Efforts: September 23rd Update

WASHINGTON – President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. provided additional assistance to the Puerto Rican government on September 22. During a briefing on Puerto Rico’s response activities at FEMA’s District 2 office in New York City, the president announced 100% federal funding for debris removal and emergency preventive measures for 30 days. He also announced that three additional municipalities, Añasco, Hormigueros and Mayagüez, are now eligible for FEMA’s Individual Assistance Program, allowing more survivors to apply for federal assistance.

On September 21, President Biden granted Puerto Rican Governor Pedro Pierluisi’s request for an urgent declaration of a major disaster. The announcement now authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide individualized assistance to survivors in 58 municipalities, and public assistance and risk mitigation in all 78 municipalities in Puerto Rico.

FEMA has dispatched hundreds of employees to Puerto Rico to support the response. This is in addition to the 700 employees who live and work on the island. We have teams on the ground doing damage assessments and we also use data from bulletins and satellites to speed up our review. More municipalities can approve individual assistance as these assessments are completed and adjudicated.

Survivors living in the 58 declared municipalities can apply for federal assistance at www.DisasterAssistance.gov, by calling 800-621-FEMA (3362) or using the FEMA app. Survivors who use a relay service, such as a video relay service, written telephone service, or others, can give the FEMA operator the number for that service. FEMA Disaster Survivor Assistance Teams are present in affected municipalities and conduct outreach and work to help survivors apply for assistance.

Federal and partner actions to support areas affected by Hurricane Fiona

  • Five FEMA Incident Management Assistance Teams and four urban search and rescue teams in Puerto Rico to enhance response efforts. In addition, mobile emergency response support, an incident support base, staging management teams, and mobile communications office vehicle operators are located on the island. Disaster emergency communications repair the La Santa communications tower in the city of Humacao.
  • The Water Distribution Task Force, Federal and Commonwealth Members, and the private sector coordinate the delivery of water to isolated communities.
  • The US Small Business Administration offers low-interest disaster loans available to residents, businesses, and most private nonprofit organizations in eligible Puerto Rican municipalities. Small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, aquaculture and most private nonprofit organizations may apply for an Economic Damage Disaster Loan to help meet the working capital needs caused by the disaster.
  • The US Army Corps of Engineers installs generators at critical facilities and prepares and operates additional generators to support orders. Additional staff conduct damage assessments to support the Commonwealth and Federal response. USACE has issued $30,000 in funding to support the deployment of a team of engineers to assess federal projects, infrastructure, and coastal areas for post-storm damage.
  • The US Environmental Protection Agency and USACE continue to evaluate drinking water and wastewater infrastructure.
  • The US Department of Education is assessing the damage and needs of schools on the island.
  • Mental health resources are available. Survivors in emotional distress can call or text the SAMHSA Disaster Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 to get in touch with a trained crisis counselor. The helpline is confidential, free, and multilingual for crisis support.
  • The American Red Cross works closely with the local government to provide support. More than 200 trained Red Cross volunteers are assessing the damage, delivering emergency supplies to shelters and providing emergency supplies to more than 700 families.
  • The Salvation Army distributes hot meals to survivors on the island.
  • More than 550 Puerto Rican National Guard personnel conduct search and rescue operations, distribution of goods, security operations, and more. Additionally, US Customs and Border Protection supports the island’s search and rescue response.
  • The US Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency, and also deployed an Incident Management Team, a Health Incident Management Team, disaster medical assistance personnel, and three medical support teams to assist in urban search and rescue operations.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Administration approved an exemption to allow the purchase of hot foods with Food Assistance Program benefits for one week. Additionally, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service has approved the use of USDA foods for bulk feeding for 2,500 in shelters.

Stay alert to constant dangers

  • Avoid broken power lines: Do not touch or drive over faulty power lines. Always assume the faulty power line is unsafe and call the power company and emergency personnel.
  • Be aware of the areas where the flood waters have receded: The roads may be weak and can collapse under the weight of the vehicle.
  • Use the generator safely: Keep generators away from your home. Never use a generator inside a home, basement, shed, or garage, even if the doors and windows are open, as it may let carbon monoxide inside.
  • Stay safe during extreme heat: Avoid strenuous work or exercise during the warmest part of the day. Use the buddy system when working in extreme temperatures and take frequent breaks.
  • Download the free FEMA app (available in English and Spanish) to receive emergency alerts, real-time safety notifications, emergency preparedness advice, and disaster resources. Visit Ready.gov or Listo.gov to learn how you can keep you, your family, and your pets safe.

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