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For residents of Hampden and Worcester counties hit by the June 1 severe storms and tornadoes, the Aug. 15, 2011 deadline for applying for federal disaster aid is approaching fast. Don’t let common misunderstandings cause you to miss deadlines for disaster assistance.

Check the following questions and answers to learn why you should register now at www.fema.gov/ or 800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 800-462-7585 for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Answers to some common questions about disaster assistance:

Q. I have insurance. Should I wait for my insurance settlement before requesting additional assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency?
A. No. Insurance is your main source of money to put your life back in order after a disaster, but FEMA may be able to help with things insurance does not cover. If you have insurance, find out what is covered, take pictures if you can, and begin clean-up and repairs, keeping estimates and receipts. You may not be eligible for assistance until you can provide additional insurance settlement information to FEMA (a necessary step to avoid duplication of benefits), but register now, before the deadline.

Whether you have insurance or not, it’s a good idea to register immediately with FEMA either online or by phone.
Q. I already repaired my home. Can I still apply?
A. Yes. By registering, you still could qualify for reimbursement of eligible repairs or to help with needs not covered by your insurance.

Q. I got help from the American Red Cross. Can I still register with FEMA if I need assistance?
A. Yes. Registration with the Red Cross or other voluntary agencies is not the same as
registering with FEMA. FEMA coordinates various federal programs to help disaster victims, which are different from the emergency food, clothing and shelter initially provided by the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and other voluntary agencies.

Q. Do I have to meet a minimum amount of damage before I can register with FEMA?
A. No. There is no minimum requirement for registering for federal and state disaster assistance. FEMA, by law, cannot duplicate other benefits, but you may have losses, for example, not covered by insurance, that could be reimbursed by FEMA.

Q. Do I have to be turned down by my bank before I can apply for a disaster loan?
A. No. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), which handles low-interest disaster loans for homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes and private nonprofit organizations, has its own criteria for determining each loan applicant’s eligibility. The SBA will decide whether you are able to repay a loan. If you are not qualified for a home loan, you may be eligible for other assistance, such as FEMA’s Other Needs Assistance grant program that covers personal property, vehicle repair or replacement, and moving and storage expenses.

Q. I don’t really want a loan. Do I still need to fill out the SBA application when I receive it?
A. Yes. If the home loan application is not returned, you may not be considered for some other forms of disaster assistance.

Q. If I qualify for an SBA loan, do I have to accept it?
A. No. IF SBA determines that you are eligible to receive a low-interest disaster loan, you do not have to accept the loan. SBA allows up to six months for you to reopen your case and request a redetermination.

Q. I rent an apartment. Can I get help to replace my damaged personal property?
A. Yes. A renter also may qualify for an SBA low-interest disaster loan or grants from other sources to replace personal property. One type of grant may cover temporary housing if a renter has to move to another dwelling. Other grants may cover eligible individuals or families with serious disaster-related needs and expenses not covered by insurance or other programs.

FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.
To receive future updates from FEMA by email, click here.

By Steve Anderson

My daughter Kelly works at the Duke University Medical Center emergency department in Durham, North Carolina, as a trauma nurse with a specialty in pediatrics. She loves kids! And she likes to make sure they’re safe.

She has completed a five-day course to become certified as a National Child Passenger Safety Technician (see SafeKids.org for more information). I was amazed that it would take that long to learn how to safely use a child’s car seat.

There are a couple of government websites that also provide information about child passenger safety. These include:

Here are some basic recommendations for all ages:

  • Select a car seat based on your child’s age, height, and weight.
  • Keep your child in the car seat for as long as possible, as long as your child fits the seat’s height and weight requirements.
  • All children under 13 should ride in the back seat.

It is important to follow your car seat manufacturer’s instructions and your vehicle owner’s manual on how to properly install the car seat. According to Kelly, a high percentage of car seats are not installed properly, and thus will not provide the maximum protection for children in an accident.

Certified technicians are available around the country to check your car seat installation for free. Go to SafeKids.org to look up the information in your state.

Nat'l Seat Check SaturdaySeptember 24, 2011, is National Seat Check Saturday. Take advantage of this free service to have your car seat installation checked by a certified car seat technician.


  • Independent insurance agencies are not limited to selling products from only one company. They represent multiple insurance carriers, which benefits you because it increases the number of products and services that the agent can evaluate on your behalf. A captive agent can sell the products of only one insurer.
  • The independent insurance agency has a great deal of flexibility when it comes to solving your problems. If you are dissatisfied with your current insurance policy, the agent can move your coverage to another provider and continue to act as your liaison with the new provider.

Industry Knowledge

  • Independent agencies can be more familiar with current events in the industry, because each of the carriers they represent sends its own informational updates and newsletters. Captive agents, on the other hand, only receive news information and industry updates from one specific carrier.


  • Independent insurance agencies have a substantially larger network of contacts. Because they work with multiple insurance companies, and each company has its own research department, the independent agent is able to speak with multiple representatives from several companies to obtain insight about any potential problems or concerns.


Unbiased Opinions

  • The fear of receiving a biased review or opinion of a particular insurance company or product is greatly reduced when you work with an independent agency. Since the majority of insurance carriers pay the same commission, there is no advantage to the agency to steer you toward one particular company or policy.
A local MA Independent Insurance Agency like ours has the advantage of working with several of the best insurance companies on the client’s behalf, allowing us to offer unbiased, sound insurance coverage at affordable prices.  For a list of our company affiliations visit:  http://fyins.com/content/about-company.html.
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