Once Bradley County and other East Tennessee communities were declared federal disaster areas, FEMA arrived immediately to begin the search for a building appropriate for hosting the DRC.
Such a facility was found last week. It opened Friday at noon.
The former First Baptist Church Annex was approved for use by FEMA field teams and crews set to task to set up telephone and data lines, as well as office equipment. The DRC is located at 340 Church St. where plenty of parking is available across the street at the former First Baptist location.
The facilities are now owned by Lee University following the First Baptist congregation’s move to its beautiful new facilities and campus on the north end of town on Stuart Road.
The DRC opened its doors immediately to Bradley County storm victims Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and now is operating daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., including Saturdays.
The Bradley County DRC launched service at about the same time as equivalent facilities in Claiborne and Cumberland counties. Earlier in the week, emergency assistance centers opened in McMinn and Polk counties.
DRC personnel are on hand in Cleveland, and surrounding communities, to assist area families whose homes and property were damaged by severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds and flooding during the period from Feb. 29 to March 2.
Representatives from the state of Tennessee, FEMA, the U.S. Small Business Administration and other agencies are stationed at the downtown Cleveland center to explain assistance programs and to help storm survivors register for disaster aid.
Regardless of the level of destruction — whether it ranged from minor damage to major or involved complete debilitation of a home — area residents are encouraged by FEMA spokespersons to complete all paperwork.
All DRCs, including Bradley County’s, will remain open to aid storm victims until further notice, according to Susan Solomon, FEMA information officer.
If possible, area residents suffering storm damage are asked to register with FEMA before visiting the downtown DRC. Registering with FEMA may be done by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). Applicants using TTY may call 1-800-462-7585. Help is available in most languages and lines are open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.
Storm survivors, regardless of their amount of losses, may also register by computer online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov.
What type of help can area residents expect?
According to FEMA spokespersons, assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the March 2 twister.
According to the Cleveland-Bradley County Emergency Management Agency, area residents reported $3.2 million in damage. This included the destruction of six homes, 13 that suffered major damage, 20 that had moderate damage and another 48 were affected. A total of 87 Bradley County houses were impacted.
Some $644,400 in losses were reported by at least two businesses.
Bradley County residents should not delay in seeking federal assistance. FEMA is here to help and the organization will remain until all are served.
We urge those impacted by this latest disaster to register online or by calling FEMA, and then follow with a personal visit to the Disaster Recovery Center.