SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) inspectors have completed more than 2,000 inspections of homes damaged or destroyed by the South Napa Earthquake. Homeowners and renters in Napa and Solano counties became eligible to apply for federal disaster assistance on Oct. 27 following the presidential declaration for Individual Assistance. FEMA must verify damages for every application.
Those affected by the South Napa Earthquake have until Dec. 29 to apply for disaster assistance. Disaster assistance may include grants to help pay for rent, essential home repairs, personal property replacement or other serious disaster-related expenses not covered by insurance or other sources.
Damage inspections are free and generally take 30 to 45 minutes. They are conducted by FEMA contract inspectors who have construction and/or appraisal expertise and have received disaster-specific training. Each inspector displays official photo identification.
Inspectors document the damage but do not determine the resident's eligibility for disaster assistance. They check for damage to the building structure and its systems, major appliances and any damaged septic systems and wells. Residents should tell the inspector about other important losses such as clothing, personal property, medical equipment, tools needed for a trade, and educational materials.
Inspectors then relay this information to FEMA on their handheld tablet, which they call their inspector pad. They use their pads to download work assignments and communicate throughout the day.
Applicants are reminded to keep the contact information on their applications current so an inspector can reach them. To update their information, applicants should call FEMA's Helpline at 800-621-3362 or (TTY) 800-462-7585. Contact information can also be updated online at www.disasterassistance.gov.
FEMA procedures for home inspections follow:
• An inspector calls the applicant to set up an appointment at a mutually convenient time and advises the applicant of documentation needed to complete the inspection, such as insurance policies and photo identification.
• The inspector tries a minimum of three times to contact the applicant. The inspector will call at different times on different days in the hope of finding someone at home.
• If attempts to reach the applicant are unsuccessful, the inspector posts a letter on the applicant's door with a phone number to call for an appointment.
• If applicants have relocated to another area and cannot return for the mandatory damage inspection, they can authorize an agent or proxy to be present on their behalf.
• As part of the inspection process, homeowners will be asked to show proof of ownership, such as a tax bill, deed, mortgage payment receipt or insurance policy showing the property's address. Renters must show proof of occupancy, such as a lease, rent payment receipt, utility bill or other document confirming the home was their primary residence at the time of the disaster. Both homeowners and renters must also be prepared to show a valid driver's license or other photo identification.
To speed the inspection process, applicants should:
• Make sure their home address number can be easily seen from the road.
• Keep their appointment or notify the inspector if a postponement is necessary.
• Stay in touch with FEMA, which may include telling neighbors where they can be contacted.
• Let FEMA know during the registration process if they need a reasonable accommodation, such as an American Sign Language interpreter, during the inspection.
If applicants discover additional damage to their property, they can request another inspection by calling the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 800-462-7585.
Besides the above personnel, residents and businesses may be visited by loss verifiers from the U.S. Small Business Administration, insurance adjustors, and local building officials, as well as others involved in the recovery process. Building officials typically charge fees for permits, though these are sometimes waived after disasters.
FEMA inspectors do not tag dwellings. FEMA inspectors must follow written guidelines to perform inspections on dwellings previously tagged as unsafe to enter or unsafe to occupy by local officials.
For unmet disaster-related needs, the United Way operates 2-1-1 that covers Napa and Solano Counties. Available 24/7 in 150 languages, the Bay Area 211 helpline connects callers with hundreds of programs to help people find food, housing, healthcare, senior services, childcare, legal aid and more.
For more information on California disaster recovery, go www.fema.gov/disaster/4193.
Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status. If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-FEMA (3362). For TTY call 800-462-7585.
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.