(Cushing)–City officials say rumors of FEMA’s presence in Cushing are not just great exagerated, they’re flat out NOT true. FEMA is the Federal Emergency Management Agency, famous (or perhaps infamous) for the response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita along the Gulf Coast two years ago. City officials have had to answer to area residents upset that rumors of FEMA’s arrival have turned out to be false. Cushing Fire Chief Brent Kerr says FEMA is in Oklahoma, but is presently working in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa areas, as well as other areas hit even harder than Cushing. “FEMA officials will be here, althoug we don’t know right know exactly when it will be, but they will come to Cushing to assess the damages. But we’ve had people say they’ve heard FEMA is in town issuing vouchers for groceries and other expenses, and that just isn’t the case.”

Meanwhile, the Oklahoma Office of Emergency Management has opened a call center for people to REPORT damage, but the OEM is NOT offering assistance. A statement released by the Payne County Emergency Management Office says that the call center is only collecting information on damages from residents and business so that the federal disaster response process can be started. The call center was initially overwhelmed, and many people reported getting busy signals.

Residents and business owners who have uninsured ice-storm damages are urged to call the toll-free Oklahoma Damage Assessment Hotline at (866) 560-7584 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Operators will be on-hand to take the calls daily. The hotline is needed to gather damage information that, in turn, will strengthen the state’s application for federal disaster assistance for individuals and business owners. The damage reports will identify where damage assessment teams need to check in an effort to build the case that many Oklahomans need disaster assistance. Callers will be asked to provide their name, address of the damaged property and the type of damage their property sustained. They will also be asked if they sustained financial loss because their business or place of employment was closed due to the storm.

More information about FEMA’s services are available at the agency’s website, www.fema.gov, however, as of Thursday night, there was nothing specific to victims of this week’s ice storm.