UPDATED: Getting help and helping others

Hurricane Irma is causing some people to turn to others for help, and offering others an opportunity to be of service.

Here are some places to turn for help, or to get involved.

Hurricane Irma blew down lots of trees around Pasco County, including this one, across an East Pasco road. (Richard Riley)

Free well water testing kits
The UF/IFAS Pasco County Cooperative Extension Service is offering free, private well water testing kits for owners whose wells flooded due to Hurricane Irma. The water sampling test kits are available Sept. 28 and Sept. 29, from 8 a.m. to noon, at the extension office, 36702 State Road 52 in Dade City. Only 60 kits are available, and they will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.

The extension office will collect the water samples on Oct. 3, from 8 a.m. to noon. Kits received after that date will not be accepted for testing.

 

Temporary roof replacement
If your roof was damaged by Hurricane Irma, you may be eligible for free temporary roof repairs by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Operation Blue Roof can install a temporary roof covering. For more information, call 1-888-Roof-Blu (That’s 1-888-766-3258.)

Need to file an insurance claim?

Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and the state’s Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier offer these tips to help consumers:

  • Have all of your insurance policies handy.
  • Document damage. Take photos or shoot video before making any temporary repairs.

A free smartphone app developed by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners called “MyHome Scr.APP.book” can help you take and store a room-by-room log of photos.

  • Contact your insurance company or agency as soon as possible to report damages.
  • Cover damaged areas that may be exposed to the elements to prevent further damage.

Your insurance company may reimburse the expense of these temporary repairs, so keep all receipts. Remove water-logged and otherwise damaged items from your house to prevent the spread of mold, but document them and do not dispose of any damaged property until your insurance company adjuster has had an opportunity to survey it.

The Office of Insurance Regulation also has additional storm-related materials at www.floir.com/Office/HurricaneSeason/hurricaneresourcepage.aspx.

Trees did not fare well in front of a home near downtown Dade City. (Stefanie Burlingame)

Avoiding rip-offs

  • If you’re having work done, research a company or contractor, ask for references and get multiple quotes before signing a contract. Be sure the contractor carries general liability insurance and workers’ compensation.
  • Beware of any unsolicited offers or contractors claiming they can perform repairs at a discount with leftover supplies from another job.
  • Never pay the full amount up front, and do not make final payment until completely satisfied with the work performed.
    • If you suspect someone of price gouging, call (866) 9NO-SCAM.
  • Keep in mind that federal, state, and county government employees will have identification badges and will not approach you in your home for cash payments or banking information. There is no fee to apply for or to get disaster assistance from FEMA, the U.S. Small Business Administration, or the State of Florida.

Emergency bridge loans available
Small business owners with two to 100 employees, in any of Florida’s 67 counties affected by Hurricane Irma, can apply for short-term loans up to $25,000. These interest-free loans are granted in terms of 90 or 180 days. To be eligible, a business must have been established prior to Sept. 4, 2017, and must demonstrate economic injury or physical damage as a result of Hurricane Irma. The deadline to apply is Oct. 31. For information, visit FloridaDisaster.org.

For more information, call the Florida Small Business Development Center Network at (850) 898-3489.

Hurricane Irma left her mark on Saint Leo University, knocking over trees on campus and causing water intrusion in dozens of rooms. (Courtesy of Saint Leo University)

Individual and household assistance
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has determined that Pasco County is eligible for the Individuals and Household Assistance Program, which provides financial help or direct services for eligible residents.

Available help includes:

  • Housing assistance for renters or homeowners for temporary housing, home repairs and either semi-permanent or permanent housing construction services
  • Other needs assistance, including uninsured, disaster-related necessary expenses; serious needs, such as medical expenses, funeral and burial costs, repair, cleaning or replacement of personal items; and, other eligible expenses
  • Apply online at DisasterAssistance.gov.

Debris removal
Pasco County Utilities, Solid Waste and Resource Recovery Department, was scheduled to begin removing debris this week.

  • In preparation for the removal, Pasco County homeowners must have all debris materials brought to the curb or roadside for pickup. Residents should be aware and be careful not to block fire hydrants, mailboxes, electrical boxes or any other structures. Contractor generated debris will not be picked up.

Do not bag debris. Refrigerators should be empty, with the doors secured or removed.

Requests for debris pickup must be submitted to Pasco County Customer Service Center by emailing , providing the address where the debris is located. Residents can also call customer service at (727) 847-2411.

Debris must be separated into the following categories:

Furniture: Mattresses; couches, sofas, chairs; dressers; lumber, if not pressure treated; particle board; laminated flooring; dry insulation (if wet, pile with construction); carpet and padding

Construction: Drywall, plasterboard, ceramic tile, concrete, lumber (pressure treated), wet insulation

Vegetation: Tree cuttings (must be no more than 5 feet in length, and all branches must be bundled)

White Goods: Appliances, metal furniture, metal shelving, bicycles, items that are more than 75 percent metal

Hazardous Waste – Delayed Pick-Up: Any household chemicals; oil, gas, flammables; lawn and garden chemicals; televisions; computer monitors computer towers (CPUs)

Pasco needs volunteers for disaster assessment
Pasco County needs volunteers who are able to help with disaster assessment in the field.

If faith-based, charitable, or other organizations or civic minded individuals are available and have successfully passed recent background checks, please email your contact information to , or call the Volunteer Hotline at (727) 847-8940.

Other volunteer opportunities may become available. Additional information will be posted at PascoCountyFl.net.

Help record Hurricane Irma’s damage
Pasco County encourages residents and business owners who have been affected by the recent storm to report damages to their homes, properties and businesses by opening the MyPasco App and clicking the Report Irma Damage icon, or by completing a Damage Assessment Survey located online at PascoCountyFl.net

Securing accurate information will help the State of Florida and the Federal Office of Emergency Management to determine if the county has enough damages to seek a federal declaration for our residents to receive financial assistance to make necessary repairs to their properties.

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