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Long road to recovery lies ahead

HOW TO HELP

The American Red Cross Northwest Georgia Chapter and Greater Chattanooga Area Chapter need donations to provide shelter, food, emotional support and other disaster assistance to victims affected by last week’s storms. To make a donation, visit here or here or mail your check to: American Red Cross Northwest Georgia Chapter: 112 John Maddox Drive, Rome, GA 30165 or The Greater Chattanooga Area Chapter American Red Cross: 801 McCallie Ave., Chattanooga, TN 37403.

The Catoosa County Sheriff’s Office is accepting bottled water for storm victims in Ringgold. Authorities asked people to drop water by the office at 5842 U.S. Highway 41 so that it can be distributed.

Oakwood Baptist Church in Walker County is collecting bottled water, nonperishable food and toiletries for storm victims in Flintstone and Ringgold. Church members are setting up a distribution center at their Gateway campus for Ringgold and another at Ministry of Hope for Flintstone. To sign up or get more information, visit the church website.

First Baptist Church in LaFayette is collecting nonperishable food and bottled water for victims. Items can be dropped off at the church office during normal business hours or brought to church services Sunday.

Volkswagen Group of America’s Chattanooga operations has established a $100,000 fund to assist storm victims. The Volkswagen Tornado Assistance Fund will be administered by the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga, which is establishing an online donation system for the fund.

Blood Assurance is asking anyone able to get to a blood center or bloodmobile to do so immediately. For more information, go to the Blood Assurance website or call (423) 756-0966.

Neediest Cases: Southern Storms was created by the Chattanooga Times Free Press to assist victims of the storms and tornadoes that tore through the area on April 27. Donations from individuals and businesses made to the fund will be channeled to the local chapter of the American Red Cross. The newspaper will publish lists of Neediest Cases: Southern Storms donors along with a running tally of donations. Local Red Cross officials say 100 percent of donations made to the fund will go to feed, shelter and assist those who need it most locally. To donate visit here.

Petsmart is accepting pet food donations to help provide food for animals that have lost their homes during the current storms. Petsmart is accepting donations at both store locations: 2130 Gunbarrel Road and 5591 Highway 153. Catoosa Citizens for Animal Care is looking for volunteers to transport donations from Petsmart to tornado-affected areas. Call (706) 937-2287 if you can help with a food transport or other volunteer needs.

HOW TO GET HELP

The American Red Cross of the Greater Chattanooga Area has developed the Safe and Well website, enabling people within a disaster area to let friends and relatives know of their well-being. People may list themselves as “Safe and Well” and post messages that can be searched by phone or home address. Visit here (English) or here (Spanish).

For information about missing people in Catoosa County, call (706) 965-7138 or (706) 965-7139.

For help from the state of Georgia, call (404) 656-1776.

SAFETY TIPS

Be aware of hazards from exposed nails and broken glass.

Do not touch downed power lines or objects in contact with downed lines. Report electrical hazards to the police and the utility company.

If it is dark when you are inspecting your home, use a flashlight rather than a candle or torch to avoid the risk of fire or explosion in a damaged home.

If you see frayed wiring or sparks, or if there is an odor of something burning, you should immediately shut off the electrical system at the main circuit breaker if you have not done so already.

If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, open all windows, and leave the house immediately. Notify the gas company, the police or fire departments, or state fire marshal’s office, and do not turn on the lights, light matches, smoke or do anything that could cause a spark. Do not return to your house until you are told it is safe to do so.

Source: National Weather Service, Chattanooga Fire Department

VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES

The American Red Cross Northwest Georgia Chapter has the following volunteer opportunities:

Disaster Relief Workers: Red Cross Disaster Action Teams focus on meeting people’s immediate emergency disaster-caused needs. When a disaster threatens or strikes, Red Cross caseworkers provide safe shelter, food, clothing, health and mental health services to address those immediate emergency needs.

Disaster Education Presenters: Become trained to conduct and present disaster preparedness sessions for schools, businesses and community groups. Attend area health fairs and community events to educate the public on the services the Red Cross provides.

Health and Safety: Become certified to teach CPR, first aid, lifeguard training, water safety instruction, HIV/AIDS prevention and other age-appropriate courses to schools, businesses and community groups.

Office Volunteers: Perform clerical assignments at Chapter Headquarters and Bartow Service Center during business hours.

For more information call (706) 291-6648 or visit here.

Total recovery from the deadly tornado that spun a path of destruction through Ringgold’s business district and slashed a lethal path along Cherokee Valley Road may be measured in months or years.

As Gov. Nathan Deal said, after seeing the devastation firsthand, “Recovery will continue over a period of time.”

But immediate needs to help those who suffered losses during those few minutes last Wednesday remain and those displaced by the tornado face a daunting prospect of filing paperwork with relief agencies and insurance companies.

President Barack Obama signed major disaster declarations for Georgia Friday, making federal assistance available to individuals who suffered personal property damages or losses, and for public infrastructure, such as schools, fire stations and libraries.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency places the highest priority on providing assistance to disaster victims and its staff members have experience providing rapid, clear and consistent access to disaster assistance to eligible individuals and communities.

“Our top priority is to support the states and communities affected by this as recovery efforts are underway,” said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate in a statement. “We will continue to work with our federal, state, local and private sector partners — as well as the American public — to support the affected families, neighborhoods and communities as they work to rebuild and recover, for as long as it takes.”

FEMA personnel have set up a temporary office at the Shirley Smith Learning Center at the Benton Place Campus, and are processing claims for individual assistance. This is the same location used following widespread flooding in 2009.

If they have not already done so, property owners who suffered losses during the tornado should contact their insurance agent or their insurance company’s national claims office, according to Randall Peters of Ringgold-based Weeks & Peters Insurance.

He warns that some unscrupulous individuals and firms are already trying to capitalize on the confusion and sense of helplessness of those hardest hit by the tornado.

“Some companies got into the area past public safety officials and are going around trying to talk people into what seem to be high-priced contracts to begin recovery before people have a chance to contact their insurance company,” Peters said. “You should not sign anything with disaster relief companies until you have gotten your insurance company involved.”

There might be exceptions — say a tree has fallen or is about to fall onto a house — but even then, Peters said property owners should not pay the full quoted price if it exceeds a policy’s deductible.

“Pay only the amount that would be your deductible and work out the balance for later,” he said. “Don’t commit to more than your deductible. Save receipts and take lots of pictures of damages.”

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