FRANKFORT, Ky. -- As you stroll the aisles of a local store, a sign might catch your eye proclaiming, “The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends you buy or use the following.” Don’t believe it!
“FEMA doesn’t endorse any specific products or services,” said Michael Bolch, the federal coordinating officer overseeing statewide recovery efforts for the agency. “If you see something suggesting an endorsement, please notify us right away.”
The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is the place to start, Bolch said. A toll-free call to 1-800-323-8603 begins the report process, which is anonymous and confidential. Be prepared to supply specific information on the suspicious activity.
Written alerts, or complaints, can be made to: Office of the Inspector General, FEMA, 500 C STREET, S.W, WASHINGTON, DC 20472.
The OIG operates the FEMA Fraud Hotline and leads multi-jurisdictional fraud task forces that can include the U.S. Small Business Administration, the FBI and the U.S. Army Judge Advocate Group.
Conducting audits and investigating possible fraudulent activities is standard procedure in all federal disaster operations. The U.S. Department of Justice prosecutes cases that result in criminal charges.
Bolch said outreach teams from FEMA may use local home improvement stores to help distribute information following a disaster and the agency does suggest the type of materials that should be included in an emergency preparedness kit. When it comes to the selection of brands, however, the decision is left to the consumer.
On March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. FEMA’s continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders and manages the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.