Great Bend, KS -- In the unsettled days and weeks following a disaster, people whose lives have been disrupted must make many decisions that may be confusing and difficult to sort out. People of all ages can be overwhelmed by the mounds of information thrown at them in a short period of time.
"In disaster situations, scam artists are often ready to take advantage of the misfortunes of others," warns Gene Krase, state coordinating officer for the recovery process.
The elderly are perhaps the most vulnerable to strangers presenting a range of services. They may want to have family members or a trusted friend with them during any interviews with contractors. Ask for advice before signing anything. Senior citizens with questions can also call the Southwest Kansas Area Agency on Aging at 1-800-742-9531.
State and federal officials recommend that before making important commitments on repairs or rebuilding of storm-damaged property or constructing a Safe Room, people take the time to do some checking.
All contractors who work within the city limits must be licensed by the City of Hoisington. The city maintains a current list of those contractors. Call the City Manager's Office at (620) 653-4125 to see if a contractor you are considering is on the list.
The Kansas Attorney General's Office offers the following suggestions:
- Use reliable licensed contractors and hire local contractors, if possible.
- Get a written estimate.
- Check references.
- Get proof of insurance.
- Ask for a written contract.
- Pay by check, not cash.
- Have work inspected by city building inspectors
- If necessary, cancel a contract within three business days of signing, being sure to follow contract cancellation clauses. Send notification of cancellation by registered mail.
Persons who are having problems with a contractor or have been victims of fraud are urged to call the Kansas Attorney General, Consumer Protection Division. The toll-free number is 1-800-432-2310.
"The recovery process can be a positive one if you take your time, talk to building and floodplain officials, and select a contractor with great care," added Federal Coordinating Officer Carlos Mitchell of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).