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MINDEN TORNADO RECOVERY: Neighbors can get help, even if they're already insured

Posted at 9:07 PM, May 16, 2024

MINDEN, Iowa (KMTV) — FEMA representatives were going door-to-door in Minden, making sure those who need to register for help from the federal agency know how to get in touch.

  • “I just need to wait for a structural engineer, that’s what we’re waiting on,” said Joyce Zimmerman, outside her home. She's staying nearby but can't live in the home yet.
  • Even neighbors with insurance might still be eligible for FEMA help, said FEMA spokeswoman Tiana Suber: “You get a letter from your insurance company and they tell you what is covered and what they are not covering. You bring that letter to a disaster recovery center and we’ll let you know what you’re eligible for."
  • “My sisters — neither one of them live here — and I said ... you just don’t understand what happened to the town until you literally drive through and you see it,” said Zimmerman's daughter, Janine Marsh.

How to contact FEMA:  

  • Visit DisasterAssistance.gov  
  • Call FEMA directly at 800-621-FEMA (3362)  

BROADCAST TRANSCRIPT:

We’ve entered a new phase in the disaster recovery process in Minden. I’m Southwest Iowa neighborhood reporter Katrina Markel and I followed along as FEMA representatives went door to door registering storm survivors.  

“Somewhat liveable. She can’t stay here because of blown-out windows,” Janine Marsh said outside her mother’s home.  

Marsh lives in Ralston but was in her hometown helping her mom, Joyce Zimmerman, when FEMA representatives offered to help Joyce register for disaster assistance.  

“I just need to wait for a structural engineer, that’s what we’re waiting on,” said Zimmerman. 

Like a lot of her neighbors, Joyce can’t live in her home right now. It was lucky the FEMA reps found her at the house.  

Spokeswoman Tiana Suber says there are different challenges in a rural disaster area, including that folks in need are far from disaster recovery centers.  

“I’ve been on other disasters where people only get their information from word of mouth or from a Facebook group or from their local church,” said Suber. “So it’s very imperative that the DSA teams come out here and register people who cannot make it to any of our locations.”  

FEMA representative outside a home: “So, I would just recommend getting registered because you never know what you guys qualify for.”  

Even neighbors with insurance might still be eligible for FEMA help.  

“You get a letter from your insurance company and they tell you what is covered and what they are not covering. You bring that letter to a disaster recovery center and we’ll let you know what you’re eligible for,” said Suber. 

Iowa residents can visit disaster recovery centers in Nebraska and vice versa. Suber recommends displaced neighbors keep in touch with FEMA, especially those who are displaced.  

Also, know that they’re likely to call from a Washington D.C. “202” area code and – when going door-to-door – FEMA workers always have official ID and will never ask for money.  

“My sisters — neither one of them live here — and I said ... you just don’t understand what happened to the town until you literally drive through and you see it,” Marsh said.  

I’ll continue to follow Minden as recovery progresses, I’m your southwest Iowa neighborhood reporter, Katrina Markel 

More information:  

Disaster Recovery Center Locations:  
Douglas County – FEMA Disaster Recovery Center  
Omaha Police Department – Community Room C116  
20924 Cumberland Dr. Elkhorn, NE 68022  
 
Washington County – FEMA Disaster Recovery Center  
First Lutheran Church  
2146 Wright St Blair, NE 68008  

Authorities are working to find an Iowa location  
 
Hours for both locations: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week, until further notice. 

To save time, please apply with FEMA online or by phone before visiting a Disaster Recovery Center.  
 
If you need help completing your application, FEMA staff will be on hand to help you in person.  
 
How to Apply with FEMA:  

• Visit DisasterAssistance.gov  
• Call FEMA directly at 800-621-FEMA (3362)  
• Download and use the FEMA app  
• FEMA works with every household on a case-by-case basis.  
• Anyone using a relay service, such as video relay service (VRS), captioned telephone service or others, can give FEMA the number for that service. For an accessible video on three ways to apply for FEMA assistance, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LU7wzRjByhI  
 
In Iowa, designated counties are Clarke, Harrison, Mills, Polk, Pottawattamie, Ringgold, Shelby, and Union.  

In Nebraska, designated counties are Douglas and Washington. 

FEMA Home Inspections In addition to DSA teams, FEMA housing inspectors are working in Iowa and Nebraska, inspecting damage reported by people who have applied with FEMA.  
 
Inspectors will call or text to make an appointment before coming to a home. They will display official photo identification.  
 
If the official ID is not visible, it’s OK to ask to see it. This helps prevent fraud. In general, people without insurance will be contacted first.  

If you have insurance – and have damage to your home – give FEMA a copy of the declarations page from your insurance policy, settlement information or letter from your insurance agency. Applicants who have insurance may be contacted for an inspection after they send FEMA a copy of the declarations page from their insurance policy or settlement information.