OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. -- The severe storms and tornadoes that tore through Oklahoma May 10-13 left many Oklahoma families with badly damaged homes - or no homes at all. Housing inspectors from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are working diligently to help eligible survivors get back home as quickly as possible.
Already calling on residents in affected areas, housing inspectors play a key role in the recovery process. But they have an important message for Oklahoma renters and homeowners: "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 to visit. To expedite the process, it is vital that someone - the applicants or their adult representatives - be on hand to meet the inspectors. It also helps to keep FEMA informed of any changes in their contact information.
"We want to help eligible Oklahomans make their homes livable again as fast as we can," said Federal Coordinating Officer Gregory W. Eaton. "They can help us get assistance to them by making sure we can find them and then meeting with the inspector at the scheduled time."
"The damage assessment is an important part of the recovery process," said State Coordinating Officer Fred W. Liebe. "The inspection is free and generally takes no more than 30 minutes."
The inspector will look at damaged areas of 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 calls, 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 should provide written confirmation of ownership, such as a tax receipt, deed, mortgage payment book or home insurance policy with the damaged property's address. Having the 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. Inspectors will accept a valid driver's license or current utility bill as proof of occupancy.
A U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) loss verifier may also schedule an appointment with applicants who have a completed an SBA 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. They are following schedules and can only visit houses on that day's list.
FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.