by Nick Gromicko, CMI® and Katie McBride
Many homeowners face natural disasters that force them to leave their belongings behind and evacuate their homes. Before returning home, homeowners should ensure that local officials have determined that it is safe to re-enter their neighborhood. An InterNACHI® Certified Professional Inspector®, as well as a FEMA inspector, can assist homeowners in documenting any damage that occurred to the home and property, as well as make necessary recommendations.
The following information can help when dealing with the aftermath of a natural disaster:
Look up your address at DisasterAssistance.gov to find out whether your area is in a presidentially declared disaster area eligible for FEMA’s Individual Assistance (IA) Program.
If you’re a renter or homeowner whose primary home is in a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration Area, you may qualify for assistance and should apply for FEMA assistance, even if you’re not yet sure what kind of assistance you’ll need. You can apply for FEMA assistance at DisasterAssistance.gov or by visiting FEMA.gov.
If you have not already contacted your insurance agent to file a claim, do so as soon as possible. Failure to file a claim with your insurance company may affect your eligibility for some assistance. For a flood disaster, you’ll need to file a Proof of Loss with your insurance company within 60 days of the flood.
If your primary home was damaged, you will receive a call within 10 days of submitting your FEMA application from a FEMA home inspector to schedule an appointment to visit you. In the event of a catastrophic disaster, all timeframes may be slightly longer.
The FEMA inspector will assess disaster-caused damage to your real and personal property. There is no fee for the Inspection. Inspectors are contractors, not FEMA employees, but your inspector will have picture identification. You or someone at least 18 years of age, living in the damaged home at the time of the disaster, must be present for your scheduled appointment.
Homeowners can contact local officials to request Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funds for qualified projects. Contact your state or local emergency management or building department to find an HMGP point of contact to gain more information about eligibility.
Local officials may share information about HMGP through:
Figure 1. Disaster assessment flowchart (image courtesy of FEMA)
Figure 2. Disaster assessment flowchart descriptions (image courtesy of FEMA)
Decide on your recovery options: Will you repair, repair and mitigate, or sell the property? Consider the following information when making that decision:
Homeowners may start their HMGP-funded projects only after notification of approval by their state, tribal, or local government official. Any work started before FEMA review and approval is ineligible for funding, which means that FEMA will not reimburse the cost for any mitigation work already started or completed prior to FEMA approval. However, this does not include basic repair work necessary to make the residence habitable.
If a natural disaster has forced a homeowner to evacuate their home, dealing with the impact can be devastating and difficult. When returning home, homeowners should make sure to properly inspect their home by contacting an InterNACHI® Certified Professional Inspector® or FEMA Inspector to properly assess the damage and to make necessary recommendations. If your primary home is in a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration area, you may qualify for assistance and should apply for FEMA assistance. Homeowners can contact local officials to request Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funds for qualified projects.
This article was sourced from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, FEMA, and InterNACHI®. Image of Hurricane Irma (2017) courtesy of NASA/NOAA GOES Project.