disasterrecoveryCounty Executive Robert P. Astorino announced the opening of a multi-purpose Hurricane Sandy recovery center in White Plains that will be staffed seven days a week.

Astorino officially opened the site on Thursday, Nov. 8 at 3 p.m. The County Center is located at 198 Central Ave., White Plains.

He was joined by officials from FEMA, county commissioners and non-for-profit representatives. At Astorino's request, Kevin Burke, chairman and CEO of Con Edison, was also there. 

Starting Friday, the recovery center will operate from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week until further notice. Parking fees at the County Center have been waived. The FEMA center will handle as one storm Hurricane Sandy and the nor'easter.

FEMA strongly advises that people register in advance of visiting the disaster center. However, residents can apply for FEMA aid without coming to the County Center.

The center will be staffed with representatives from:

  • Con Edison to answer customer questions about outages and restorations; engineers and customer representatives will be there to answer specific questions
  • FEMA to help individuals, households apply for financial aid for losses and damages caused by the storm
  • The Small Business Administration, which will help businesses apply for low-interest loans for storm-related damages
  • A variety of social services agencies to provide residents with recovery assistance
  • The Department of Health, which will be giving free tetanus shots to anyone involved with cleanup, at the County Center  Friday, Saturday and Sunday and at other locations.

"The idea behind the center is to provide a place where people can get up-to-date information about their personal needs," Astorino said. "One thing I heard over and over again as I spoke with people around the county was utter frustration in not getting questions answered from Con Ed. In times of crisis, there is no substitute for face-to-face contact with someone who has the information you need to make decisions. In the case of Con Edison, representatives will be here to answer customer questions about power restoration to their homes and neighborhoods. FEMA will help people navigate through the process of applying for disaster relief. The idea is to get information and help to people as quickly and as easily as possible."

Said Burke: "We understand that it has been incredibly frustrating for our customers to be without power this long. We have an army of our own workers and thousands of utility workers from across the United States and Canada helping us restore power following the worst storm in our region's history. We have restored nearly 240,000 of Westchester customers from both storms and  are working to restore the remaining 35,000 customers this weekend."

With Westchester being declared a disaster area by President Obama, residents are eligible to apply for disaster aid, along with local governments and nonprofit agencies. The first step is to register either by calling FEMA's registration number 1-800-621-3362; or logging into  www.disasterassistance.gov. For those with speech or hearing disabilities, use the TTY number at 800-462-7585.

FEMA strongly advises that people register in advance of visiting the disaster center. Residents can apply for FEMA aid without coming to the County Center.

The FEMA representatives are simply there to help residents with the process.

In addition to state and federal partners at the center, staff from the Department of Social Services and other county departments will be on hand to help residents. There will also be representatives from the Small Business Administration, who can explain low-interest loan packages available to individuals, nonprofits and businesses of any size.

These loans are for the repair or replacement of real estate and/or personal property damaged by the storm and related flooding, officials said.  People who register with FEMA may be sent a loan application from the SBA. No one is obligated to take out a loan, according to the SBA. Applicants have six months after approval to decide whether to accept the loan.

Astorino said that it is imperative that residents and businesses document their losses with photographs and with receipts from repairs. In addition, those impacted must contact their insurance company to find out what – if anything – is covered.

FEMA advised that all persons applying for assistance at the center should be prepared to provide:

  • Social Security number (including your spouse's if applicable);
  • Private insurance information, if available;
  • Address and zip code of the damaged property;
  • Directions to the damaged home or property;
  • Daytime telephone number, and
  • An address where you can receive mail.

The free tetanus vaccines from the county Department of Health are available for anyone who is involved in cleanup. People who removed debris from homes, parks, roads, treatment plant and other critical facilities could be vulnerable to tetanus; an infection caused by bacteria present in dust, soil and manure, and can benefit from this vaccine, according to health officials.

"Anyone who removed debris and cleaned up after this storm can benefit from the Tdap vaccine," said Health Commissioner Sherlita Amler, MD. "Harmful bacteria can enter your body through a puncture cut or wound, but this vaccine provides protection."