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FEMA seeks flood victims

Brian Foster, left, talks with Bev Winder, of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Laura Sparr, of Washington State Emergency Management, who are part of a team who have spent the past two weeks visiting all the houses in the Stillaguamish Valley that called in incidents of flooding and their neighbors.  -
Brian Foster, left, talks with Bev Winder, of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Laura Sparr, of Washington State Emergency Management, who are part of a team who have spent the past two weeks visiting all the houses in the Stillaguamish Valley that called in incidents of flooding and their neighbors.
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ARLINGTON — Jack Heesch and a team of three FEMA officials and a Washington state emergency management representative are on a mission to get all people impacted by the January floods to register with FEMA.

“It’s amazing the excuses people come up with,” Heesch told The Arlington Times last week.

“I hear people say they didn’t register because they have flood insurance and the next person says they didn’t register because they don’t have insurance. Some say they don’t need help, that others need it more.”

Heesch and a team of four women are going door to door in the Stillaguamish Valley and across Snohomish County to inform residents personally that they should register with FEMA.

“Even if they think it wasn’t any big deal, they should still register.”

Heesch said that many people are so used to being flooded, they don’t take action.

“Some places that get flooded repeatedly may be eligible for assistance in getting their foundation raised up,” Heesch said.

When the FEMA team, Bev Winder, Martha Mills and Tessie Clark, with Laura Sparr of the state emergency management arrived at the door of Brian Foster’s house Feb. 13, he told them, he has flood insurance sometimes.

“Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t,” he said. “Usually I get flooded when I don’t have it.”

This year he must be covered, because his house at the end of Dike Road in the bend of the Stillaguamish River was not impacted by the flood.

After asking Foster if he missed any work, the FEMA team encouraged him, nonetheless, to register with FEMA, in case some unexpected consequences come up in the future.

“Sometimes people say, it’s no big deal, I only had a bit of water in the basement,” Heesch said.

“Then, later, they discover mold and mildew.”

Even if there was no water in the house, but it was covering the ground around the house, homeowners should register, Heesch said.

“If the ground is soaked, then it freezes and thaws, it can cause structural damage,” he explained. He said some people don’t register because they figure that other people need help worse. But Heesch’s mission is to get everyone registered.

Residents are strongly encouraged to register with FEMA before March 6 and then to visit a Disaster Recovery Center following registration. This is the message that the FEMA team is delivering to all the homeowners who called in flood incidents to local jurisdictions.

“This must be done in addition to filing damage assessments with the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management,” Heesch said, adding that a lot of people thought registering with the county was all they had to do, but that’s not the case.

If you do not register with FEMA, you will not receive any federal help, Heesch said. Even if the repairs are already made, people may get assistance if they have receipts, he said.

Snohomish County reported to state and federal officials about $18 million in damages to public and individual property. So far, the state has recorded 1,809 registrations with nearly $2.8 million of assistance already delivered. In Snohomish County, 190 flood victims have registered with FEMA.

The process is a bit complicated. First, call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or register on-line at www.fema.gov.

After registering, an inspector will visit to determine the extent of damage. Victims are encouraged to follow up with a visit to the nearest Disaster Recovery Center for a face-to-face interview.

The sooner they register, the quicker they may see federal assistance. It could be just a matter of days before funds are deposited directly into an account, Heesch said.

Upon completion of the process, residents will be given a FEMA application number. Keep the number for future reference.

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