Washington, DC -- Less than a week after President Bush issued a disaster declaration at the request of the governor for Essex, Middlesex, and Norfolk counties, damage inspectors from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are in the field. Applications have been received from more than 1,000 people in the declared counties. Inspectors are beginning to inspect applicants' houses and personal property damaged by severe storms and flooding that swept through the area beginning March 5.
"You must first apply for disaster assistance before inspectors will view your damaged property," said Louis H. Botta, FEMA federal coordinating officer.
Botta said residents should apply by calling the FEMA toll-free registration number 1-800-462-9029. Persons who are hearing- or speech-impaired may call (TTY) 1-800-462-7585.
Inspectors will call applicants to schedule an inspection soon after an applicant registers by phone. Disaster officials urge applicants to be sure to keep the appointment because it will speed the process for everyone.
The inspector will record damage to the house and damage to major appliances-washer, dryer, refrigerator, stove, etc. Other serious needs, such as lost or damaged furniture and clothing, are also reported.
Residents are urged to inform the FEMA inspector if the household is serviced by a private septic system and well. Some FEMA assistance may be available to repair damage or replace the system.
To determine eligibility, property owners should be able to show proof of ownership and occupancy to the inspector. Renters also need to show proof of occupancy. Insurance papers should be shown if they are available.
Disaster officials also urge applicants to ask for proper identification before allowing unfamiliar persons claiming to be inspectors into their homes.
"These inspectors will have specific agency identification showing that they are in fact authorized to do an inspection," said Stephen J. McGrail, state coordinating officer. "Also, official inspectors will not be charging any fees to perform this service."
If you suspect fraud, call the police, sheriff or the Attorney General's Consumer Hotline at 617-727-8400.
State and federal officials note that more than one agency may be inspecting damaged property. Other agencies may look at damages, including the U.S. Small Business Administration, the American Red Cross, local building officials, health and safety inspectors, and insurance adjusters.