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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Mike Brown
Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response

September 16, 2004

Mike Brown

Good afternoon everyone. Greetings from Alabama where we are sitting in the middle of a huge storm -- fierce winds and horizontal rain. I will take your questions now.

Craig, from Kissimmee, Florida writes:
Does FEMA assist with loss of wages when off work due to hurricanes?

Mike Brown
FEMA has a disaster unemployment program which will provide the state with additional monies and resources for unemployment benefits after a disaster.

paige, from onroe, NC writes:
How bad will this hurricane hit us? Are there supposed to be more hurricanes to come our way?

Is the government providing funds for all the distruction in Florida?

Mike Brown
Unfortunately hurricane season does not end until November 1. It appears we have another hurricane forming in the Caribbean, Hurricane Jeanne.

This indicates that it is important for us all to remain aware and be prepared for hurricanes during the season.

President Bush has asked Congress for the resources we need to respond to these hurricanes and has successfully got that money from Congress.

Steve, from Somerset, NJ writes:
What can we, as citizens, do to be best prepared for emergencies disasters etc.?

Mike Brown
Great question. I wish everyone in the country would be as concerned about this as you are, Steve.

People should do two things. Go to and and look on the preparedness links on how to put a disaster kit together. It is a great family activity and also a great thing for employers to do with their employees. The more we are prepared as a country for disasters , the easier we make the job for the first responders who put their lives in danger to help us.

Janice, from Waynesville Ohio writes:
Hello Mr. BrownWhat can we do here in Ohio (or in any state) to help those victimized by Hurricane Ivan?

Mike Brown
I'm glad you asked this question. FEMA relies very heavily on volunteer organizations to help us feed and shelter people during disasters. These organizations include the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army. Many churches and other charitable organizations have special programs to help disaster victims.

The best thing someone in Ohio can do is to write a check to their favorite charity and designate it for the Hurricane Ivan victims.

Matthew, from Los Angeles writes:
How do people find out where to get the emergency supplies that they need? Is there a central location and is broadcast on the radio?

Mike Brown
Matthew, you mention broadcasts on the radio. That is one of the best places to get information on what to do in a disaster.

Oftentimes, during disasters powerlines are down and we don't have access to television or the Internet. That's why I always recommend that you have a battery powered radio and extra batteries so you can listen to the news and local authorities about what you should do during a disaster.

You can also go to and where you will find a list of emergency supplies that you should have in order to get through a disaster.

All of these supplies can be bought at any department store or hardware store or grocery store.

Suzanne, from Tampa writes:
How and to whom do I report suspected fraudulent FEMA and insurance claims? We are in the construction business and have been contacted by an individual with a detailed list of items he wants "messed up" so he can have repairs made to his residence. We have of course turned down the job but the idea of this really burns me up.

Mike Brown

Unfortunately there are people who try to take advantage of the generosity of FEMA and disaster victims. You can call 800 621 FEMA and report cases of suspected fraud. I really appreciate your willingness to do that so we can legitimately help disaster victims.

Dean, from Manassas, Virginia writes:
I just saw the bridge in Florida of I-10 collapsed--that is insane how it could happened. Was it not built strong enough? Or did the water and wind combined cause this? Do you think they will be able to fix it soon?

I hope so. Thank you for working for all Americans.

Mike Brown

I'm glad you saw this photograph. Despite the fact that this bridge was built to withstand hurricanes, it goes to show the power of Mother Nature and how we have to be prepared to deal with her fury.

FEMA will work with as closely as possible with Governor Bush and the US Department of Transportation to rebuild this bridge so people can get back to a normal life.

nicholas, from casa grande, arizona writes:
what do you plan to do to help those who are affected, or have already been affected, by hurricane ivan. P.S. i'm only 16 and i still care about our community.

Mike Brown
I'm glad that at 16 you really care about your community. You will make a great community leader because of your passion for Casa Grande.

FEMA provides immediate needs such as clothing and temporary shelter and help get victims into shelters where they can eat meals and start rebuilding their lives.

FEMA can't make people whole again but we try to give them breathing room so they can start rebuilding their lives.


Mike Brown
Hello Vicente

FEMA has been tracking Hurricane Jeanne closely and has been in contact with the Governor to fulfill any requests they may have for the victims of Puerto Rico.

FEMA has one of its national processing centers in Puerto Rico where we take registration calls for other disaster victims. I want to make sure those folks are okay too.

Kelley, from Kalamazoo, Michigan writes:
I have some cousins that live in Alabama. What is the best way for them to get help from the government? What are the appropriate steps to take to make sure they are okay?

Mike Brown

Please have your cousins call 1 800 621 FEMA if they suffered damage from Hurricane Ivan. I'm sure your cousins are ok but you can work through the American Red Cross to get in touch with them.

Cheri, from Wichita writes:
Mr. Brown, Not a question, but a comment. While I might not live on the ocean and experience hurricanes, I sure do understand the devistation tornadoes can cause. I feel terrible for these people. Please send them our best and continue the great help and support.

Mike Brown

Having grown up in Oklahoma I know how horrible tornadoes can be. We are experiencing a lot of tornadoes in Alabama in Florida right now because of Hurricane Ivan. We often forget that after a hurricane hits landfall it is still very dangerous because of the winds, the flooding and the tornadoes.

In fact, more people die from inland flooding caused by tornadoes than wind damage.

Tom, from Washington, DC writes:
Mr. Secretary, on behalf of all American's, please accept our thanks for the dedication, hard work, and perserverence displayed by FEMA employees in the face of unprecedented disasters. FEMA personnel are the best in Government and dispel any negative connotation made against Federal employees. Please let everyone know you are in our prayers. Please keep up the great work Thank you.

Mike Brown

Thank you so much for your compliment to the FEMA team. All of the employees at the Department of Homeland Security are dedicated, hardworking and are determined to protect the country and respond when disasters happen. Thank you for your prayers. I know they are appreciated.

Cliff, from Brimfield Ohio writes:
Hi Mike: Why have we had more than what I consider a normal hit of hurricanes this year? It just seems we have had more of them hit the mainland than normal. Or do the numbers indicate this normal? What has been the dollars spent by FEMA so far this year on hurricane damage? Thank You

Mike Brown

Go to the National Hurricane Center web site and look at the history of hurricanes in this country.

President Bush and I visited the Hurricane Center last week. The director, Max Mayfield, gave the President a great history book about the hurricanes and tornadoes that have hit the country in the past 100 years. The President read it with great interest and commented about how this is not an unusual amount but that they are all coming at once and seem to be making landfall.

Michael, from Kirkland, Washington writes:
What is the government prepared to do to help Alabama farmers whose crops have been critically devestated by Ivan?

Mike Brown
President Bush has seen the devastation of the citrus crops in Florida and I will be telling him about the damage to farmland and crops in Alabama as well. I know he will be talking to Secretary Veneman about programs that the Department of Agriculture has to help those disaster victims recover too.

Sammy, from CA writes:
Mike,Wow--what does it look like down there? I have seen trees down and lots of water on TV, but I want to know first hand how it looks?

Mike Brown

It is amazing to be in the middle of a hurricane. We went to Baton Rouge yesterday and then flew to Alabama just ahead of the storm so we could be in position when the storm hit. Being here has been like being in a giant tornado -- with debris flying, people being evacuated on the Interstates, seeing the rain come down horizontally, feeling the wind which can knock you off your feet, seeing the concern and the worry in people's faces, but also seeing the determination and the eagerness of the people in the Emergency Operation Center to help victims.

I have the same feeling of concern in this hurricane that I have when I see young men and women fighting forest fires out west, victims of tornadoes and floods out west, and people who's entire towns have been destroyed by tornadoes.

The other thing I see in disasters is the American spirit and the strong desire of people to rebuild their lives and the communities helping each other. It is seeing the best of America under the worst of circumstances.

Thanks to Mike Brown for taking questions today on Hurricane Ivan.

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