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Superintendent of Insurance Howard Mills today announced that the Insurance Department will be dispatching personnel from the Consumer Services Bureau to the New York State Emergency Management Office’s (SEMO) disaster center in Tonawanda. The SEMO disaster center opens today in response to Governor Pataki’s declaration of an emergency in the counties of Erie, Genesee, Niagara and Orleans due to the severe storms and flooding during the period of October 12-13.

"Governor Pataki directed State agencies to provide all assistance possible to these beleaguered areas, and accordingly, we have sent personnel to the disaster center," Superintendent Mills said. "The Insurance Department’s Consumer Services Bureau professionals are available to answer inquiries regarding insurance policies and coverage as well as assist with complaints."

The SEMO disaster center opens today at 70 Brompton Road in Tonawanda in a building called the "Golf House." The center will be staffed from 8AM until 6 PM Monday through Saturday.

For those residents affected by the disaster who are unable to make it to the center, Superintendent Mills has also directed that the Department’s award-winning Mobile Command Center (MCC) be dispatched to the surrounding areas. The Department will be working with local elected officials to determine the exact locations and times the MCC will be available.

"The Insurance Department’s Mobile Command Center, an office on wheels, gives us the ability to bring vital Department operations directly to affected consumers," said Superintendent Mills. "I urge residents in need of our mobile services to contact their local elected officials for details on the availability of the MCC."

Governor Pataki announced on October 24 that President Bush had approved New York State’s request and declared the counties of Erie, Genesee, Niagara and Orleans eligible for federal disaster assistance as a result of damages incurred during the October 12-13 lake effect storm.

As a result of the major federal disaster declaration, homeowners, renters and small businesses are eligible for federal aid under the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Individual Assistance Program. Additionally, communities and eligible not-for-profits qualify for federal aid under FEMA’s Public Assistance Program.

Residents and business owners who sustained losses in the designated counties can begin applying for assistance by registering online at or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA(3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (local time) seven days a week until further notice.

Consumers can also call the Insurance Department’s Consumer Services Bureau at 1-800-342-3736.

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