Most people associate the use of motor homes with recreational life—accessing parks, lakes and other scenic areas to reduce the stress of the daily grind. FEMA maintains a national fleet of similar vehicles it rolls out for a different purpose: to reduce the stress on rural residents recovering from natural disasters. Their technical name is Mobile Communications Operations Vehicle, otherwise known as MCOV.
Where federal disasters are declared, MCOVs become Mobile Disaster Recovery Centers (MDRCs). MCOVs can be in a disaster area within a day or two of a federal declaration.
FEMA Mobile Communications Operations Vehicle (MCOV) Operator Theresa Engel at the Columbia County (Florida) Disaster Recovery Center where this vehicle provided telecommunication services to assist Tropical Storm Debby survivors in July 2012.(Photo by George Armstrong/FEMA)
Equipped with satellite technology, MCOVs are used as MDRCs because they can go anywhere a motor home can to register applicants for federal disaster assistance. Able to house 10 FEMA computers and a number of others for FEMA’s disaster recovery partners, they reach out as circuit riders to visit small communities where there might not even be a building big enough to use for a disaster center. Centers are always accessible to people who have disabilities or additional communication needs.
FEMA applicant services specialists and Small Business Administration (SBA) customer service representatives help disaster survivors apply for FEMA grants and/or the SBA’s low-interest loans, which can assist survivors who are not fully insured. FEMA grants are limited to temporary assistance aimed at getting disaster survivors into a safe, functional place to live.
For fuller recovery, the SBA offers low-interest disaster loans to business of all sizes, most private nonprofit organizations, homeowners and renters. Representatives also make referrals to voluntary organizations active in disasters and others with information on mitigating risks in future disasters.