Got quake damage? Officials outline next steps for claims

Cracks in a ramp by Minnesota and International (Photo: Nathanial Herz – Alaska Public Media, Anchorage)

As residents in Southcentral Alaska clean up damage from last week’s earthquake, government officials have one major request: take notes.

That was one key message at a special Assembly meeting Wednesday addressing how individuals should be submitting claims to state and federal officials in the weeks ahead.

Recouping losses to homes and property in the wake of a disaster involves multiple steps with insurance companies, as well as state and federal relief agencies. For the time being, Mike Sutton with Alaska’s Division of Homeland Security told Assembly members and the public that the state is trying to gather damage assessments from residents.

“The individual assistance program, in our estimation, is the most important,” Sutton said. “Taking care of people, making sure people who don’t have a home that’s livable have options. And we begin to implement our programs and lend assistance to them.”

The state wants people with damage to their homes and what’s deemed “essential personal property” to call a hotline or file claims online. That includes descriptions of the damage, the address affected, as well as insurance and personal information. Evidence, like before and after photos of impacted areas, is helpful. As the state of Alaska begins getting a picture of damage at the residential level it will give an aggregated assessment to the governor, who will then pass it on to federal officials with FEMA.

The state has already received 1,800 applications for relief.

But between now and January 29th, a major aim is getting resources to people who have been driven from their homes.

“Our priority is to work with applications that we see for folks that have houses, homes, primary residences that are severely damaged and unlivable in their opinion,” said Sam Walton with the state’s Disaster Assistance Program. “Folks that just had things broken, those applications are in the system and we’ll get to those as we can.”

It’s not clear yet how many people in Anchorage or the Valley have homes the earthquake rendered unlivable. But one of them is Ayyu Qassataq, who’s lived in her west Anchorage house for more than a decade.

“My home is leaning outward and buckled in the middle,” Qassataq said after testifying to the Assembly during Wednesday’s meeting. “In the case of another major event, it’s very possible that my home would crumple.”

That determination was made by building inspectors, who told Qassataq it was unsafe for her to stay there. She packed a bag, gathered important items, and is now sorting out how to file her claims through insurance and government programs. She said it was helpful to hear from state and federal relief agencies in the Assembly’s forum, but knows it’s only the beginning of a long process.

Residents are encouraged to submit their individual assistance claims online here. Or call 1-855-445-7131.