According to experts, natural disasters are on the rise not only in the United States but also in other parts of the world. Most experts attribute this increase to climate change. On the other hand, even the risk of human-made disasters is on the rise; after all, the threat of war and terrorist attacks is always looming in modern times.

Despite the distinct difference between these two types of disasters, some things remain common between the two. First and foremost, they both occur in a sudden and unexpected manner. Secondly, they both have potentially devastating effects on the victims.

Dealing with disasters is often a challenging and strenuous activity that is better not left to one individual. As a matter of fact, the federal government has implemented certain measures to deliver disaster assistance to victims; one of which is disasterassistance.gov.

Background Of DisasterAssistance.gov

The website is under the Disaster Assistance Improvement Program (DAIP) which is a partnership of 17 federal agencies under the leadership of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The disaster assistance website was launched in December 2008.

The site is meant to make it easier for victims of disasters to seek aid from both private and public partners. It includes providing victims with support services and a broad range of information. The website also centralizes the process of applying for federal assistance during disasters.

Federal Emergency Management Agency

How Citizens Can Benefit From the Website

There are some ways through which this disaster assistance program can help victims of the disaster. However, they all fall under either of 2 categories;

i. Assistance

Under this category, the portal highlights the different ways victims can get help. Victims can;

  • Look up their addresses to get information on whether they are in a disaster area that qualifies for FEMA Individual Assistance. Victims are also provided with location information on the closest three FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) and Red Cross units.
  • Search for all available disaster assistance programs by both federal agency and category of need. There is a total of 15 categories of need including food and nutrition, housing, insurance, living assistance, legal counsel and disaster relief programs.
    Victims can also search for specific disaster assistance programs offered by either one of 14 agencies including the U.S Postal Service, U.S Department of Agriculture, Department of Education. U.S Department of Homeland Security and the U.S Department of Justice among others.
  • Answer some questions which help them pinpoint the most appropriate assistance programs for them to apply. Once victims have identified the kind of support they need, they can get a checklist of the things they need before starting the application for disaster assistance. Victims are also able to fill out and submit their applications online.
  • Victims can search for the closest (local) resources available to help them recover and move forward with life after a disaster.

ii. Information

The disaster assistance portal is a wealth of information for victims of disasters. Information available includes;

Victims of Disasters

  • Information on recently declared disasters including all the latest news and updates. Users of the portal can also get a list of all the states that are currently declared for Individual Assistance.
  • Information on how victims of disasters should handle their immediate needs. The portal teaches victims how to weigh their options and how to implement them. They are also taught how to find lost family and friends and even how to cater to their emergency medical needs.
  • In addition to that, the portal also provides demographic specific information services for the different victims of disasters. For example, it has information on how people with disabilities and special needs, older citizens and even children can prepare for disasters even before they occur.
  • The portal also provides information on the different types of disasters that can happen. The list of disasters is quite comprehensive and includes biological threats such as bioterrorism, chemical threats such as oil and chemical spills, drought, earthquake, floods, heat waves, landslides and hurricanes among others. Users of the portal are also taught how to prepare for these disasters and respond to them appropriately.
  • It is also possible for citizens to get caught up in disasters/crises while in a foreign country. While this may not happen often, the chances of it happening are extraordinarily high in modern times. Users get information on what to do, who to contact and even the disaster assistance options available for citizens in case of such occurrences.