The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will begin to reduce call center operations from 24 to 18 hours a day.
The call centers will remain fully staffed with live telephone operators for all but the hours between midnight and 6 a.m. During the off hours, automated messages will inform callers of the new hours and directions on how to operate the automated system.
FEMA operates National Processing Servicing Center (NPSC) facilities in Maryland, Texas, Virginia and Puerto Rico. These centers receive calls and process applications from disaster victims who need assistance. The first NPSC center was opened in 1994.
The NPSCs are central to the success of the applicant telephone registration process and the FEMA Helpline (1-800-621-FEMA). The reported advantage of the centralized NPSC system is they can be staffed within five hours after the President declares a national disaster.
Since the inception of FEMA in 1979, the agency had never taken more than one million applications for disaster assistance in any single year. The applications registered to date by the NPSCs from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita alone total more than 1.4 million.
The deadline to apply for FEMA disaster assistance is March 11, 2006. Applicants may also register online at www.fema.gov.
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