Don’t Think Of FEMA As Bureaucrats

Where to start? I’ve been told many times that’s the first thing that goes through the mind of someone who has suffered a drastic loss, perhaps everything, in a disaster such as a flash flood.

Obviously, salvaging what you can and at least beginning to clean up and assess the situation is the initial reaction. What then?

My suggestion: Talk to the Federal Emergency Management Agency folks, if they’re in town. In McMechen and Hundred, they are.

Many people in both towns — and some nearby rural areas — suffered major losses as a result of two flash floods in July. The damage was severe and widespread enough to qualify some victims for assistance through FEMA.

FEMA employees have been in both towns for at least a couple of weeks, talking with flood victims and helping them get through the process of applying for federal aid. But, as we reported Saturday, the McMechen FEMA office is scheduled to close Wednesday (Hundred’s will remain open).

An official of the agency emphasized some FEMA staffers will remain in McMechen for a while. Presumably, they’ll be available for visits to individual applicants for aid.

Closure of the office itself means personal assistance will be limited, however.

If you’re a flood victim and you think you may qualify for assistance, get to the FEMA office before it closes. Trust me on this.

I doubt you’ll find many harsher critics of the bureaucracy. But understand this: By and large, most lower-level government employees — and that includes the vast majority of those who work for FEMA — try hard to do their jobs as well as possible.

In fact, I have some personal experience with FEMA. Suffice it to say I grew up in New Martinsville and went through several major Ohio River floods. One affected my late mother, and she qualified for some help from FEMA.

That involved me meeting with a FEMA case worker. Of course, she had to comply with all the rules. And she had to inflict tons of red tape on me.

But she went above and beyond the call of duty in making the process as easy as possible.

I suspect lots of FEMA people are that way, or they woudn’t be working where they are.

Asking for help is never easy, particularly when the government is involved. But if you’re in Hundred or McMechen, talk to the FEMA folks while you can.

They’re good folks — and they’ll try to help.

Myer can be reached at: