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Chap.6: Documentation - Chap.7: Having A Great! Inspection - Chap.8: Disaster Loans

The New Disaster Relief Handbook

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Chapter 7: Having A Great! Inspection

7.1: Applicant Inspection Checklist
7.2: About The Inspection - 7.3: The Inspector - 7.4: How The Inspection Begins - 7.5: Managing The Inspection
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7.1: Applicant Inspection Checklist
(Fill out aprior // refer to and amend during inspection.)

My Name: __________________________________

My Application/Control #: ____________

Inspector's Name: ______________________ / Badge #: _________

Inspector's Phone Number: __________________

  1. My Documentation:

    • Proof of Ownership is: Insurance Paper ___; or Other ____________
      - Handily Kept: ______________

    • Proof of Occupancy is: Driver's License ___; or Other ____________
      - Handily Kept: ______________

  2. Be sure to tell/show the inspector these losses:

    (A) Special structural damage (hidden or unusual damages) - - [shown? Y/N*]
    - 1. ____________________________________________ - - [_______]
    - 2. ____________________________________________ - - [_______]
    - 3. ____________________________________________ - - [_______]
    - - * If missed at inspection call the FEMA helpline 800-525-0321

    (B) Appliances damaged (list all) - - [shown? Y/N*] - - Notes:
    - 1. __________________________ - - [_______]
    - 2. __________________________ - - [_______]
    - 3. __________________________ - - [_______]
    - 4. __________________________ - - [_______]
    - 5. __________________________ - - [_______]
    - 6. __________________________ - - [_______]
    - 7. __________________________ - - [_______]
    - 8. __________________________ - - [_______]
    - - * If missed at inspection call the FEMA helpline 800-525-0321

    (C) Other special losses, expenses or other problems: - - [shown? Y/N*]
    - - Include damage to wells, cisterns, or pumps, septic systems, retaining walls, access or debris problems, any other unusual or hidden structural damage (see Chap 3); student or employee losses, medical or dental expenses, vehicle loss, transportation problems, looting losses, any unusual personal property damage (see Chap 4).
    - 1. ____________________________________________ - - [_______]
    - 2. ____________________________________________ - - [_______]
    - 3. ____________________________________________ - - [_______]
    - 4. ____________________________________________ - - [_______]
    - 5. ____________________________________________ - - [_______]
    - 6. ____________________________________________ - - [_______]
    - - * If missed at inspection call the FEMA helpline 800-525-0321


Copyright © 1998-2009, John Porter aka John Lionheart

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7.2: About the Inspection

The initial field inspection is the central, most important event that you can affect in the entire disaster assistance process. The inspector who comes to inspect your damage and verify your claim may be the only person from FEMA that you actually meet, or that you need to meet. The errors and omissions that may have occured when you filed your application can be corrected by the inspector with the stroke of his pen. Your role in the inspection procedure is to gently facilitate the inspection process and assist the inspector in gathering all the information he needs to file an complete and accurate report.
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7.3: The Inspector

It may sound trite but the inspector is a human being just like you. He may not have had to endure the agonies that you have endured as a result of the disaster, but his task is never an easy one. He is probably far from home, and far from the comforts of wife and family. He works incredibly long days, from dawn to dark and usually well beyond that. He works seven days a week from the time he's called to the scene until he's officially released, sometimes a month or two months later. He probably subsists on fast food and lives out of a motel room near his assignment office. He is an independent contractor. He has no paid benefits, no pension plan, and no unemployment insurance. He is paid (a pittance) for every completed inspection report that he hands in, and from his earnings he must pay his motel bill, his car rental, and his taxes. He drops dozens of quarters into dozens of awkwardly placed pay phones (is there any other kind?) trying to make appointments to inspect the damages of people who are never home when he drops by. He drives a route that may take him two hundred miles or more every day, and always somewhere different. In spite of his many obstacles, he is expected to turn in fifteen or more polished reports every single day, and he usually does. He may forget to whisper a prayer in the morning, but when he turns down the covers at night, he sure thanks God that he's been kept safe and sound yet one more day.

Please note that, while this book employs the traditional "he" in referring to the inspector, the ranks of FEMA field inspectors are not one hundred percent male although nearly so. The few women inspectors in the ranks are, in our opinion, among the hardest working and most professional of the lot. They write good reports, in FEMA jargon. If you happen to draw a woman inspector, please consider yourself extra lucky.

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7.4: How the Inspection Begins

The typical inspection starts something like this: you are in the basement bailing water, or upstairs talking on the phone, or in the kitchen making breakfast when the sound of squalling tires from the direction of the roadway catches your attention. You happen to glance out the window in time to observe, at the wheel of a small rented automobile, a rather large burly gentleman - a gentleman who has apparently mistaken your driveway for a freeway on-ramp. Realizing his error just in the nick of time, he slams on the brake and the car miraculously skids to a stop a scant few inches from the garage door, and maybe, if you are not unduly flustered by now, you notice a mud splattered "FEMA" sticker in the rear window of the vehicle. Out pops the fellow (surprisingly agile for his size you think); he pauses momentarily to extract a small portable computer from the tangle in his car, and a second later the doorbell rings. Take a deep breath, light the burner under the teakettle that you have thoughtfully filled and left sitting on the stove in anticipation of this moment, and go answer the door. The inspection has begun.

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7.5: Managing the Inspection

Take a moment to verify the inspector's credentials if you wish. He will probably introduce himself by way of a letter of introduction from FEMA (if they are in stock) and he should have an official FEMA ID badge hanging from the lapel of his jacket. If you have any reservations as to the inspector's authenticity, you can call the FEMA Helpline at 1-800-525-0321.

The first thing he will ask for is to see your proof of occupancy (like who else would be wearing a bathrobe and sporting wading boots here in your living room at two in the afternoon), and, if you are a homeowner, he will also need to look over your documentation of ownership. If you have followed the recommendations of Chapter Six, you now have all this conveniently at hand and do not need to root around in the rubble trying to locate an old utility bill or something, while the inspector dashes about punching out doinks on his computerized report generator. Instead, you hand the inspector the stack of required documents to peruse, and as the teakettle begins to whistle, you look into his eyes, touch him lightly on the sleeve, and offer him a cup of coffe or tea or whatever. He will probably thank you politely but refuse, begging time and scheduling concerns. At least you've gotten the inspection off on a friendly note, and hopefully you will both be inclined to be a bit more relaxed and attentive to the details of your claim.

As he is entering the required squiggles of information gleaned from your documentation onto his preliminary report form, you snatch up your list of losses and expenses that you have previouly prepared using the criteria found earlier in this book. You want to accompany the inspector during the inspection, if possible. Inevitably some damages are not visibly evident. The inspector is able to infer most hidden damage, but if you can accompany him around the house you may be able to point out those problems that a person unfamiliar with your property might overlook. Particularly, point out any areas of damage not mentioned on your application.

If you had damage to furniture, clothing, appliances, or other personal property, refer to your notes, and bring this up with the inspector at the relevant points on your tour. You will end the inspection back at the at the kitchen table, or front porch or wherever. The inspector will glance at his watch and have you sign a Declaration of Applicant and a Privacy Act Notice (see Appendix B.1) if you haven't already, and he will ask if there is anything more. Before he leaves take one last look at your notes and see if anything has been left out. An ounce of attention by you now is worth a pound of appeals hassle later on. Be sure to show the inspector your receipts, if you have any, for such unapparent items as student or employee losses (see Chap 4), or for completed repairs such as emergency preventative measures, debris removal, cleaning and sanitizing, tree removal (see Chap 3), or for any other loss or expense that you haven't already mentioned to him. He won't take any receipts away with him; he will just jot a note on his report and hand them back to you. Hang on to your original bills and receipts for any claimed repairs or other expenses. You could need them should there be any reinspection required of you by a FEMA "quality control" team - as happens surprisingly often, or for the Red Cross, for the IFGP or SBA, or for a "program audit" (see Appendix A.4).

That's it, you're done. Shake the man or woman's hand goodbye, thank him for coming, wish her a safe trip to wherever she is going next.

If everything goes according to plan, you will receive a letter of notification from FEMA in a few days, informing you if you are eligible for Disaster Housing Assistance, and how much assistance you qualify for. A check for that amount usually accompanies the letter. If you feel your award is adequate, given the circumstances, thank your lucky stars, send the Red Cross a contribution if you feel so inspired, and go on with your recovery efforts. If you think the amount unreasonably inadequate you may want to consider filing an appeal (see Appendix A.1). And should you discover that you have been overcompensated (as sometimes happens), you have been granted the rare opportunity to write Uncle Sam a refund check for a change, and may quite likely find yourself shaking hands with the President as he (or she) pins some sort of good citizenship medal or another onto your chest to the accompaniment of popping flashbulbs and the whirr of TV cameras. Please be sure to have your copy of this book stapled prominently to the front of your hat for the occasion. Thank you.

"Impermanent are all created things.
When one perceives this with true insight,
then one becomes detached from suffering.
This is the path of purification."

from the treatise, "The Dhamma Padda" by
contributed by the Rev. John C. Lily

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