AUSTIN, Texas -- Housing inspectors from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are working to help Texans in 13 counties whose homes were severely damaged or destroyed during the recent wildfires.
Already calling on residents throughout the disaster area, FEMA housing inspectors, who all carry official photo IDs, play a key role in the recovery process. FEMA has an important message for survivors: "Help us help you."
Once applicants have registered with FEMA and informed the agency of uninsured or underinsured damages that make their homes unlivable, housing inspectors will arrange a visit.
To expedite the process, it is vital that someone -- the applicants or their adult representatives -- be on hand to meet the inspectors at the damaged or destroyed home. Registered survivors should also keep FEMA informed of any change in their contact information.
"This is an extremely difficult time for the individuals and families who have been affected by these historic wildfires," said Federal Coordinating Officer Kevin L. Hannes. "That's why we are working closely with our state of Texas partner to expedite assistance to eligible survivors. Texans can help us help them by getting ready for the inspector."
The inspection is free and generally takes no more than 30 minutes. The inspector will look at damage to the home, review records, and then enter information into an electronic device that sends the information to FEMA. This speeds up the process of providing assistance. The inspector does not determine whether an applicant is eligible for assistance.
When the inspector phones to schedule the visit, homeowners should provide clear, accurate directions to the damaged property and a current phone number where they can be reached. The inspector will need a street address for the property rather than a post office box, which does not show the property's physical location.
Applicants can prepare for a housing inspector's visit by locating written confirmation of ownership. Tax receipts, deeds, mortgage payment books or home insurance policies with the damaged property's address are all acceptable proof. Showing this necessary documentation can expedite the inspection process.
Owners and renters must show that the damaged property was their primary residence at the time of the disaster. A valid driver's license or current utility bill often serves as proof of occupancy.
A U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) loss verifier may also schedule an appointment with applicants who have completed an SBA disaster loan application.
FEMA inspectors, SBA loss verifiers and insurance adjusters are required to carry identification. Residents should ask to see a photo ID if any inspector comes to their home.
Residents should not be concerned if an inspector is seen in their neighborhood but does not visit every home. Inspectors follow schedules and can only visit houses on that day's list.
Wildfire survivors in Bastrop, Cass, Colorado, Gregg, Grimes, Houston, Leon, Marion, Montgomery, Travis, Walker, Waller and Williamson counties can register online at www.disasterassistance.gov, via web-enabled phone at m.fema.gov, or by telephone via FEMA's toll-free numbers: 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 1-800-462-7585. Those who use 711-Relay or Video Relay Services can call 1-800-621-3362. Assistants are available by phone from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week.
For more information about wildfire disaster recovery, Texans can follow FEMA tweets at www.twitter.com/femaregion6. Other online resources are blog.fema.gov, www.facebook.com/fema and http://www.fem...