A FEMA inspection isn’t about the condition of a home’s roof, HVAC system, electrical wiring or its other components. It’s about bridging the gap between devastated victims of natural disasters and the Federal Emergency Management Agency whose job it is to provide those victims with much-needed assistance.
Fires, floods, hurricanes, tornados and other disasters damage or destroy homes and businesses across the country every year, leaving hundreds or even thousands of people in dire need of immediate assistance. In 2017 alone, the damages from natural disasters totaled more than $300 billion, most of which were caused by hurricanes and the flooding that followed.
If formally requested by the governor of a state where a tragedy occurs, the location, at the president’s sole discretion, can be declared an official disaster area, which makes it eligible for federal assistance. That’s when FEMA comes into the picture. FEMA helps victims of the disaster begin to rebuild their lives by providing financial help, temporary housing and assistance for things like medical treatment, transportation and moving and storage expenses. Before relief funds can be disbursed and various other services provided, FEMA inspectors are sent to the area to determine the extent of damages to the properties involved.
How Is a FEMA Inspection Different from an Ordinary Home Inspection?
A FEMA inspection doesn’t establish the value of a house; rather, it’s a detailed examination of its condition following a declared disaster. Standard home inspections typically take two to three hours to complete, depending on the size and age of the house. Inspectors check all of the home’s interior and exterior components, from the basement and foundation to its attic and roof and everything that’s in between. Home inspectors also test the electrical, heating & air conditioning and plumbing systems to see if they’re operating properly. FEMA inspections, however, are concerned only with the actual damages to the house and its contents. Although FEMA allows 40 minutes per inspection, experienced FEMA inspectors can complete their assessments in as little as 15 to 30 minutes per house. The objective of FEMA inspectors is to evaluate as many homes in the shortest possible time so that federal assistance begins to flow without unnecessary delays.
Immediately following a flood, wildfire or other natural disaster, there are lots of people who need help, and they need it quickly. Some are left with seriously damaged homes, while those whose houses and contents have been totally destroyed or partially destroyed but rendered uninhabitable are suddenly left homeless and have lost everything they once owned. That’s when FEMA, steps in to help victims put their lives back together by providing much-needed financial and living assistance.
What Do FEMA Inspectors Look For?
The objective of a FEMA inspection is to evaluate the extent of damages or destruction to homes, businesses and personal property so that FEMA can get funds flowing to those people who need assistance as quickly as possible. FEMA inspectors don’t play a role in either determining who is eligible for assistance or the amount of aid to be provided. It’s a FEMA inspector’s job to help smooth the way for getting federal financial assistance to victimized home and business owners without unnecessary delays.
FEMA assignments can last anywhere from two or three days to several weeks or even months. A FEMA inspector’s typical workday is often 10 hours or longer. FEMA inspectors might not be at disaster sites year-round, but during the times they’re busy, it’s nonstop. The rest of the time, these inspectors work their regular jobs until FEMA calls upon them again for deployment to a disaster area.
Walking through what’s left of a home room by room, inspectors measure each area, make detailed notes and take pictures of the damages, such as wet carpet, damaged cabinetry, collapsed ceilings, broken windows, flooded basements, damaged or destroyed furniture and other personal property. A FEMA inspection report reflects the condition of virtually everything the inspector sees while at the site.
How to Become a FEMA Inspector
FEMA inspectors don’t work for the government. FEMA contracts with private companies WSP USA Inspection Services (previously known as PB Disaster Services) and Vanguard Emergency Management. Both companies have networks of prequalified home inspectors. When disaster strikes and the president declares a location to be an official disaster area, these companies, at FEMA’s request, send inspectors to the region to evaluate the extent of the damages. Based upon these inspections, FEMA determines the amount of aid the property owners will receive.
Some FEMA inspector applicants come from backgrounds totally unrelated to building and construction, and need to be trained in the basics of home inspections before being qualified for deployment to disaster areas. Although some may have received home inspection training and certification, traditional home inspectors need further instruction to become familiar with FEMA policies and procedures to qualify as FEMA inspectors. Both Vanguard Emergency Management and WSP USA Inspection Services offer online and in-person training for FEMA home inspector applicants.
Although all FEMA inspector applicants are required to undergo FEMA’s inspector program regardless of their previous work background or education, your Inspection Certification Associates’ Home Inspector Training will make passing FEMA’s training program much easier. It will also allow you to inspect homes in your area until disaster strikes and FEMA calls upon you for your expertise.
When disasters occur, some people lose everything. FEMA and FEMA home inspectors work together to help them rebuild and get a new start in life. If you’re ready to help make a difference in peoples’ lives, enroll now with ICA to earn your home inspector certification. From there, you can start your own home inspection business, followed by applying to FEMA, completing their training program and being ready to conduct FEMA inspections when disaster strikes.