How to get your FEMA application processed faster

New disaster center opens in Riverview
Posted at 6:57 PM, Sep 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-21 19:06:19-04

FEMA is now helping Floridians struggling to put the pieces together after Hurricane Irma.

FEMA/State Disaster Recovery Center is now open in Hillsborough County for Florida Survivors. It's designed to help Florida storm survivors. 

The DRC will be open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week until further notice at: 

  • Hillsborough Community College:
    • 6437 Watson Rd, Riverview, FL  33578, United States

Going directly to a center can be one of the best ways to get access not only to FEMA but several other organizations like the Red Cross of the Small Business Administration for help recouping losses.

Being able to go to one of these centers is helping Jaime Suddard get her life and home back in order.

"When I drove through my neighborhood, and I saw my home still standing, I was just like, so happy," she told ABC Action News through tears.

Suddard just had knee surgery and is taking care of her father who has severe medical issues.

Her roof suffered severe damage during the hurricane and a tree fell on her home. She said there is now a home in her roof and isn't safe.

"Anything would help," she said.

FEMA teams were also out in full force Thursday in some of Hillsborough County's hardest hit neighborhood by Hurricane Irma.

"The storm was so bad, the wind was so strong. The wind it was blowing the water off the roof!" one man told a team of FEMA workers.

FEMA is working to canvass these neighborhoods to get immediate help to those who are considered "critical need."

This includes people who are living in severely damaged or unsafe structures, as well as people who are in need of immediate assistance for things like food or infant formula.

Hurricane Irma: How to register for FEMA disaster assistance

While most Floridians were affected by Irma in some way, not everyone would be considered a critical need.

“Look at your situation and decide, I really do need outside help. If you need outside help, that’s what we’re here for," said Keith St. Clair, a FEMA representative.

And while it's not necessary, FEMA says it's helpful to bring any documentation for ruined items in your home, including photos or receipts. Basically anything you would submit for a home insurance claim.
“Those are the same type of things that are going to help FEMA be able to be able to prove your losses and process it quicker.”

He said FEMA is not a replacement for having insurance. FEMA will also send out a contractor to assess the damage to your property when you make a claim, St. Clair said.

Now, Suddard has more hope than she's had in weeks

“It was worth the hour drive here and the hour drive home to actually speak with someone and get the help that’s needed," she said.

As more centers open, survivors may locate one near them at That information is also available on the FEMA Mobile App.

The registration process is the first step in recovery and requires information such as insurance policies, and bank information for possible direct transfer of funds. 

Survivors are urged to register before visiting a DRC. 

To register, go online to or call the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362.  

Help is available in most languages and phone lines are open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) seven days a week until further notice.