Free legal aid for folks affected by wildfires

By Kristine Liao, American Red Cross California Gold Country Region volunteer

As the smoke clears and recovery begins, Californians impacted by the recent wildfires often face a variety of disaster-related legal issues. Thanks to the American Red Cross legal partners, Legal Services Corporation and the American Bar Association Disaster Legal Services, free legal services are available.

“The Red Cross values our partnership with the legal community and appreciates the assistance and invaluable service they provide to communities,” said Mary Dewitt-Dia, National Partnerships Manager.

From navigating insurance claims to requests for government programs such as FEMA assistance, a coalition of organizations and law firms in North America are ready to help.

“The partnership between Disaster Legal Assistance Collaborative and the Red Cross is so exciting,” said Alexa Villagomez Montlavo, Disaster Legal Services Coordinator at Legal Access Alameda. “We have so many great free legal aid programs available to those impacted by the recent wildfires.  It’s one thing to have resources ready for those in need, but by partnering with the Red Cross it’s another way to make sure that the resources are making their way to the people that may need them.”

Janet Snyder of the Alameda County Bar Association said, “I am proud and excited about our partnership with the Red Cross. There is true strength in numbers, and joining forces will allow us to connect more disaster survivors with free legal assistance. We want disaster survivors to know that they are not alone, and that we are here to offer support in their recovery process.”

“Providing FREE legal help after a disaster ensures that low-income disaster survivors receive needed legal assistance,” Mary added. “Problems can often be resolved quickly therefore preventing additional complications.”

If you need help navigating legal issues, please visit or call the free Disaster Legal Assistance Hotline at 888-382-3406. You can also submit legal questions at

Red Cross Renews Memorandum of Agreement with FEMA


The American Red Cross has renewed its Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The MOA is aimed at defining the overarching goals of the relationship between the two organizations. The Red Cross and FEMA last signed an MOA in 2010. The 2010 MOA focused on the collaboration between the two organizations in coordinating and delivering mass care services during disaster responses, and specifically on the Red Cross role as co-lead for mass care portion of Emergency Support Function-6, one of 15 Emergency Support Functions identified in the National Response Framework.

Since 2010, both FEMA and the Red Cross have enhanced their perspective to include all phases of the disaster cycle. In 2011, President Obama signed Presidential Policy Directive 8, which tasked FEMA with coordinating the production of National Planning Frameworks across the disaster cycle, including prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery. In 2012, the Red Cross undertook a business process reengineering effort that resulted in alignment of its disaster preparedness, response, and recovery mission areas.

While the MOA still addresses the Red Cross co-lead role in Emergency Support Function-6, it also recognizes the important role the Red Cross plays in other Emergency Support Functions, Recovery Support Functions, and preparedness functions.

“This renewed MOA is a great reflection of Disaster Cycle Services and the goals and vision we set with re-engineering,” said Richard Reed, Senior Vice-President for Disaster Cycle Services.  “Working together with FEMA, we expanded our agreement to ensure our partnership covered the entire disaster cycle.  And we now have an agreement that is not only more strategic in nature but also speaks to the specifics of how our two organizations work together in preparedness, response and recovery.”

The MOA can be found on the Government MOU Index on The Exchange.  Contact the Emergency Management Coordination unit with questions.