In Times of Disaster, Who Do You Trust?
Those who suffered any damage as a result of Tropical Storm Irene’s wrath should report damage by calling 211. Vermont’s 211, through the United Way, is working in cooperation with Vermont Emergency Management (VEM) and Vermont Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (Vermont VOAD). By calling 211, flood victims can get connected with those who can help. If minor damage occurred and residents repair the problems themselves, they are urged to still report the damage as it will help in attaining a Federal Government Deceleration of a Disaster Area of individual assistance. The threshold of individual assistance from the government is higher than that of municipal infrastructure damage, and every report of damage helps get closer to the declaration, explained Martha Maksym, the Executive Director of the Vermont Untied Way in Chittenden County.Businesses should call the Agency of Commerce and Community Development at 802-828-3211 to report damage. That information will be collated for VEM and FEMA."Cleaning up the damage is a marathon, not a sprint,” Maksym said. Long term help is going to be needed. Many communities are still under emergency response. What is needed now is money, Maksym said, and she urges those who want to help to not send food, clothing, or other items.If any one would like to donate funds, they can send them to the Red Cross, the Vermont Disaster Relief Fund created by the Untied Way, or visit the Vermont United Way website for more information and instructions (www. vermont211.org) or call a local United Way office.On the United Way website, those who wish to volunteer can join the volunteer group. Maksym said volunteers should not just drive into the community to help. By joining the groups they can be mobilize in the right direction. If anyone has other resources that could help, such as heavy equipment, they can also register on he website.Maksym urged people to not forget their own communities and those who are in need.Maksym said everyone who wants to donate should know where they are investing and make sure it is a reputable organization. The website Guidestar.org provides a list of all non-profits and information about them. Maksym is not aware of any fraudulent collectors in Vermont, she said, but she has heard of these issues in the past. The Better Business Bureau out of Massachusetts is warning individuals about fraudulent groups collecting for the hurricane relief effort or posing as contractors to aid in rebuilding and taking money ahead of time and disappearing.“Not only do Americans need to be concerned about avoiding fraud, they need to know that their home contractors and charity relief efforts are legitimate andhonorable,” said Paula Fleming, vice president of communications and marketing for the local Better Business Bureau. “It’s imperative to find a home contractor and charity that you can trust.”FEMA has contracted with Alltech Inc. to provide contractors who are actively inspecting homes and businesses in affected areas hit by the recent tropical storm. All inspectors should produce Alltech Inc. badges that were issued by FEMA. These badges will contain the name of the contractor and his or her FEMA issued ID number."If you have a concern regarding the legitimacy of a contractor, you should contact local law enforcement," said Mark Bosma with Vermont Emergency Management.