Wildfire Survivors Receive Remote FEMA Property Inspections

SACRAMENTO – Before FEMA can issue any monetary awards to help wildfire survivors repair or replace damaged homes, the agency requires a home inspection. Until recently, these property inspections were conducted in-person. Due to COVID-19 and the need to protect the safety and health of disaster survivors and FEMA personnel, the inspections are now being done over the phone.

The process is as follows:

  • When survivors apply for disaster assistance, they indicate that they may not be able to — or cannot — live in their homes due to damage, including smoke damage. FEMA inspectors will then call survivors to conduct or schedule a remote damage inspection. Phone calls take approximately 30 minutes.
  • Inspectors use the telephone number(s) provided on the initial disaster assistance application. If these numbers change, applicants should inform FEMA immediately so as not to delay the inspection process.
  • To verify that inspectors have reached the correct applicant, they will ask for the last four digits of the person’s FEMA registration number. To confirm the identification, the inspector will then recite the first four digits of the applicant’s registration ID.
  • Reasonable accommodations, including translation and American Sign Language interpreters via Video Relay Service, will be available to ensure effective communication with applicants with limited English proficiency, applicants with disabilities, and other individuals with access and functional needs. If you use a relay service such as a videophone, Innocaption or CapTel, provide FEMA the specific number assigned to that service when you register.
  • FEMA determines awards for rental assistance and home repair or replacement based on the applicant’s responses during the remote damage inspection. The amount of the award for home repair depends on the type of residence and the level of damage sustained.
  • Inspectors only record damage. They do not determine an applicant’s eligibility, amount, or type of assistance that FEMA can offer.
  • Applicants who reported damage but are still able to live in their homes will not be scheduled for an inspection. Should these applicants later discover that their homes sustained more costly damage than originally reported, they may file an appeal to FEMA requesting additional assistance. They may also then request an inspection.
  • Survivors can make appeals using their personal online disaster assistance account or by calling the FEMA Helpline at 800-331-3362 (TTY 800-462-7585) between 7 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. PDT. If you use a relay service such as a videophone, Innocaption or CapTel, provide FEMA the specific number assigned to that service when you register.

Home inspections have no influence on the types of FEMA assistance that don’t require an inspection, such as disaster-related expenses for personal property replacement, childcare, transportation, medical, dental, funeral, moving and storage, or other serious disaster-related needs.

For the latest information on wildfire recovery, visit https://www.fema.gov/disaster/4558 and follow the FEMA Region 9 Twitter account at https://twitter.com/femaregion9 .

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All FEMA disaster assistance will be provided without discrimination on the grounds of race, color, sex (including sexual harassment), religion, national origin, age, disability, limited English proficiency, economic status, or retaliation. If you believe your civil rights are being violated, call 800-621-3362 or 800-462-7585(TTY/TDD).

FEMA’s mission: Helping people before, during, and after disasters.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is the federal government’s primary source of money for the long-term rebuilding of disaster-damaged private property. SBA helps businesses of all sizes, private nonprofit organizations, homeowners and renters fund repairs or rebuilding efforts and cover the cost of replacing lost or disaster-damaged personal property.

For more information, applicants may contact SBA’s Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955. TTY users may also call 800-877-8339. Applicants may also email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov or visit SBA at SBA.gov/disaster.

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