Every year, fire, floods, hurricanes, tornados, blizzards and other natural disasters leave hundreds or even thousands of people with severely damaged or totally destroyed homes and businesses. If a formal request is made by the governor of the state where the disaster occurred, the affected area may, at the sole discretion of the president of the United States, be declared an official disaster area. That’s when the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, steps in to help those who have lost their homes or businesses put their lives back together by providing much-needed financial assistance. Before distributing the funds, FEMA deploys inspectors to the area to establish the extent of the damage.
Here are a few reasons to consider working with FEMA, along with information on how to become a FEMA home inspector:
FEMA Field Inspectors Work When Needed
FEMA inspectors don’t work for the government. They’re independent contractors or temporary workers called upon by FEMA to work whenever and wherever there’s a natural disaster or emergency, so there’s no need for inspectors to travel around the country looking for work. Assignments can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks. The rest of the time these inspectors are at home working their usual jobs, which might include running their own home inspection businesses, working construction or being involved with totally unrelated activities.
FEMA contracts with private companies Vanguard Emergency Management and WSP USA Inspection Services (previously known as PB Disaster Services), who have networks of prequalified home inspectors. At FEMA’s request, when disaster strikes and the president declares a location to be an official disaster area, these companies send inspectors to the region to inspect the damaged structures. Based upon these inspections, FEMA determines the amount of aid the property owners will receive.
Vanguard doesn’t employ home inspectors, but rather hires them as independent contractors on an as-needed basis. WSP USA Inspection Services, however, employs home inspectors as part-time temporary workers, which entitles them to receive some employee benefits, including workers’ comp, unemployment insurance, a retirement savings plan and paid vacations based upon hours worked.
FEMA Inspector Pay Is Competitive
FEMA inspector pay can vary greatly. According to Glassdoor, FEMA home inspectors’ average about $38,500 to $41,200 annually, while Indeed.com reports average annual earnings of $73,700 per year. The actual amount a FEMA inspector earns depends on where the inspections are conducted and how many hours and days the inspector works.
Although their rates aren’t published, Vanguard FEMA inspector pay is per inspection based upon the inspector’s actual experience, which increases with the number of FEMA inspections completed. Vanguard’s three experience levels are as follows:
- Entry Level – 500 or fewer inspections
- Intermediate Level – 501-2,499 inspections
- Advanced Level – 2,500 or more inspections
WSP USA Inspection Services pay their FEMA inspectors by the hour. Glassdoor estimates WSP’s FEMA home inspectors make $26 to $29 per hour. The rate, as with Vanguard, increases with the inspector’s actual experience. All WSP inspectors are part-time temporary employees. New inspectors are paid an apprentice rate, which increases with experience. WSP also pays their FEMA inspectors overtime.
At first glance, FEMA’s per inspection pay may seem low compared to the earnings of independent home inspectors. FEMA inspections, however, are different from standard home inspections. A typical private sector home inspection takes two to three hours. FEMA home inspectors, however, assess only actual damages and destruction rather than the condition of the home’s individual systems and components. FEMA allows 40 minutes per inspection, although some experienced FEMA home inspectors indicate they need just 15 to 30 minutes, which means many more inspections can be completed in a single day. Although WSP’s hourly rate may seem somewhat low, WSP pays overtime, and a typical FEMA workday may be 10 hours or longer.
Most of FEMA Home Inspectors’ Expenses Are Reimbursed
FEMA inspector travel expenses can add up quickly, especially those that must be paid up front, such as air fares and rental car costs. Both Vanguard and WSP reimburse their inspectors for many of their ordinary and necessary expenses while deployed, including the following:
- Transportation to and from the assignment
- Mileage reimbursement for privately owned automobiles
- Lodging and meals
- Tolls and parking
- Taxi fares
FEMA home inspectors are advised to bring enough money to cover at least two weeks’ out-of-pocket expenses until their first expense report is approved and reimbursement is received.
FEMA-Approved Home Inspector Training Is Readily Available
FEMA won’t send inspectors to disaster areas until applicants have completed FEMA-approved training. To qualify for FEMA home inspector training, applicants must meet the following minimum qualifications:
- Be a U.S. citizen
- Pass a background check
- Ability to deploy to disaster areas on short notice
- Have a valid driver’s license
- Be financially able to cover expenses during deployment
- Have an adequate command of the English language
- Able to work under stressful conditions
- Be professional and highly organized
- Be physically able to climb stairs, walk long distances and regularly work 10-hour days
Applicants must also pass a background check, which includes criminal records and being free from delinquent tax and student loan payments.
Although some FEMA inspectors have already received home inspection training and certification, they will need further instruction to become familiar with FEMA policies and procedures. Some FEMA inspector applicants come from unrelated industries and will need to be trained in the basics of home inspections before being qualified for deployment to disaster areas. Both Vanguard Emergency Management and WSP USA Inspection Services offer online and in person FEMA home inspector training. The two companies also pay applicants during their FEMA training, as well as reimburse their travel expenses to and from the training sites.
Although all applicants are required to undergo FEMA;s home inspector program regardless of their previous training, your Inspection Certification Associates’ Home Inspector Training and Certification will make passing FEMA’s training 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 help them rebuild and get a new start. 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 business and branch out into FEMA inspections when disasters occur.