View Full Version : FEMA Deployment Checklist

Bruce Breedlove
08-17-2009, 06:50 PM
Every hurricane season someone will post a question asking what they should take with them on their first deployment to a disaster to do FEMA Housing Inspections.

I have worked a number of disasters as a FEMA Housing Inspector. My first disaster was a mini-flood in Cleveland in 2003. Since then I have worked a real flood in West Virginia and hurricanes in Florida (2004), Louisiana (Katrina 2005 + Gustav & Ike 2008) and Alabama (Katrina 2005). On my first few disasters I took way too much stuff and realized I needed a few things that I did not take. Over the years I have figured out what I need and what I don't need to do this work and survive in the field for several weeks.

Below is my FEMA Deployment Checklist that I put together over the weekend as I pulled my stuff together in case a hurricane strikes the US in the near future. My Checklist may prove useful to inspectors who are packing for a FEMA deployment - especially inspectors who are packing for their first disaster deployment.

I will edit my Checklist as I think of items to add to the list.

FEMA Deployment Checklist

Personal Items
Clothing (shirts, jeans or pants, underwear, socks) – enough for a week or two – the less time you spend in a Laundromat the more time you can be working (and making money)
Shoes – at least one spare pair in case your shoes get wet – keep a spare pair of socks in your car
Toilet kit – toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, nail clippers (those nails tend to get long after a few weeks), scissors (to trim hair and facial hair as needed), etc.
Spare toothbrush and toothpaste in carry-on bag – just in case you have to spend the night in the airport (been there, done that)
Soap – take your favorite soap (motel soap gets old fast)
Medications & eyeglasses (if applicable)
Alarm clock
Digital camera + spare battery + charger + spare memory card – to take photos of interesting things you see while deployed
Ear plugs – you’ll need these to sleep if tree trimmers and roofers are staying at your motel
Bug spray
Towel – to wipe sweat from your head and face
First Aid Kit – just in case
Snake Gaiters – to protect your lower legs from snake bites – just in case
Snake Bite Kit – just in case
Thumb drives – to store photos from digital camera, etc.

Must Have Items
Credit Card(s) – carry more than one credit card in case your card company decides to upgrade your card and deactivates the card in your wallet (been there, done that)
Drivers License
Car Insurance Card

Things You’ll Be Glad You Took
GPS – SO much better than a map – especially useful when street signs have been blown down
Cell Phone(s) + charger(s) + ear buds – I use a second cell phone for FEMA work so applicants don’t have my primary cell phone number
Splitter for car cigarette lighter – so you can plug in multiple things at once in your car (FEMA computer charger, cell phone charger(s), GPS, etc.)
Plug Strip – so you can conveniently plug in multiple things in your motel room (FEMA computer charger, digital camera chargers, cell phone chargers, alarm clock, etc.)
2-Prong Adapter – so you can plug in your 3-prong Plug Strip in those ancient motels
Phone Cord – so you can communicate your FEMA computer over the phone line if needed
Bottle Opener – for beer bottles that do not have screw tops
Trash bags – for your dirty clothes and clean clothes
Zip-lock bags – to help keep small things organized and dry
Car seat organizer
Checkbooks & Contact Info – so you can pay your bills back home while you are away

Office Items
Pads of paper
Spiral notebook(s)
Note cards – I keep track of my inspections on note cards
Jumbo clips
File folders
Expanding folders – great for storing your completed 90-69s, blank forms and reference materials
Envelopes – needed to mail paperwork to the FEMA contractor
Rubber bands
Post-It notes
Rubber stamps – I carry a rubber stamp with my name so I can stamp my name on the Hello Letter rather than write it hundreds of times
Book stand – to hold the FEMA computer on your motel desk

Tool belt
Small pouch(es)
Voltage Sniffer – great to make sure those downed power lines are not live
Basic outlet tester (3-light)
Measuring wheel
Electronic tape – great for measuring rooms and ceiling heights, especially when the room is full of debris
25’ tape – for occasional use
Small tape – for measuring high water marks
Spare batteries
Laser pointer – great for pointing things out to the applicant or tormenting cats and puppies
You DO NOT need a ladder – FEMA forbids inspectors going on ladders or roofs or going into crawlspaces

FEMA Items
ID Badge – you cannot do an inspection without your ID Badge
FEMA Computer (aka “pad”) + soft case + batteries + chargers – this applies to inspectors on the Rapid Deployment Team
FEMA Digital Camera + carrying case + charger + USB cable – this applies to inspectors on the Rapid Deployment Team
Forms – 90-69s, Hello Letters, Missed You Notes, Inspector Invoices, Completed Inspection Form, etc.
List of FEMA Contractor contact numbers
Reference Material – Inspector Guidelines, Workshop Notes, etc.
Reference Material on a thumb drive

Things To Buy At Disaster Field Office City
Rental car – Consider fuel economy (you may be driving a LOT) and comfort – I prefer a Chevy Cobalt 4-Door – A 4-Door is easier to access the back seat – A white car is cooler but White attracts Love Bugs (I learned that the hard way in Louisiana). Make sure it is permissible to drive your rental car to other states as need be. Also make sure you can keep the car for over 30 days so you don’t have to drive back to the rental location just to renew the rental. (I like to sign one or two additional rental agreements when I rent the car and phone in before 30 days to renew my rental over the phone. Usually they only need to know where the car is and a mileage reading.)
Cooler – Styrofoam coolers sweat – I prefer an insulated plastic cooler
Map of the state – available free at Visitor Centers
Bottled Water
Drinks – Gatorade, soft drinks, etc.
Snacks & Food – you can’t always stop for lunch
Gas Can – may be needed if gasoline is not available at your work area
Toilet paper – for when the only bathroom available is the woods

Scott Patterson
08-18-2009, 07:18 AM
Bruce that is a great list and will be very helpful for anyone doing FEMA work. Actually that is a great list for anyone that might be doing any type of work in a hurricane struck area, like Red Cross, Church work, etc.

Just keep in mind that when you deploy to a disaster area it is like you are going in to a third world country if not worse!

My son-inlaw was put on alert last night with PARR. He is part of a pre-deployment group that goes in before the main deployment.

daniel nantell
08-19-2009, 08:44 PM
Do you know If they have any educational web sites about inspections , I have done the e-learning and 1 workshop, I have done 50 inspection on gustov and Ike, but they were really easy, 40 applicants were looking for food vouchers and when they got the food vouchers they were happy , so when I called about the inspection time, they said to forget it they got their money and all I had to do show them as a voluntary withdrawal , .I recently sent an e-mail to pb's site and recommend that they establish a site where all the questions and answers that are called in by inspectors are cataloged , for new inspectors and old one that are not sure of the answer, It would take some of the load off the call centers if you have a data base to look up already answered questions, Like they have on this web site , you can do a search and get a pretty good answers if all questions and were put into a database. Looks like we will miss Bill.

Bruce Breedlove
08-20-2009, 01:51 PM

I do not know of any single web site where questions about FEMA inspections are answered. That would be nice but I don't think we will ever see one. For one thing FEMA is constantly changing the way they want inspections to be done. For instance, FEMA used to requre inspectors to list EVERY Personal Property item on their list no matter how many there were. If an applicant had 37 floor fans scattered throughout the house and none of them were damaged we had to list 37 fans as Not Affected in their particular rooms. What a waste of time! Now we only have to list one PP item as Not Affected.

Another example of a change is how a Withdrawn inspection is handled. We used to simply withdraw the applicant (after explaining the programs to the applicant) and make a comment as to why the inspection was being withdrawn. In the middle of the deployment last year FEMA required inspectors to actually make a site visit, do an exterior-only inspection and take photos.

Imagine the confusion, especially for new inspectors, if the current requirement is one thing but the Q&A web site still instructs you to do it the old way.

Also, I don't think the Powers That Be want to put everything in writing. I know they cannot foresee every possible situation that we will run into in the field and I suspect they would prefer to answer questions about unusual situations on an individual basis rather than have it written in stone. And several parts of the Guidelines are subject to interpretation. It is not unusual to ask two different people at the PB Helpline the exact same question and get two completely different answers.

I agree that it would be VERY nice to have a central location where inspectors can get their questions answered but I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for it.

For now I recommend that you make a list of questions and try to ask them when you attend a workshop or when you are deployed. I am attending a workshop tomorrow in Denver and I am taking a long list of questions that I have. I doubt I will be allowed to ask all my questions but I will ask as many as I can.

One of my questions is about Toys. Last year we were instructed to ensure that the total number of sets of Toys addressed (whether Not Affected or Replace) equalled the number of children < 18 YO in the household. This year I am told that we do not need to add children <18 YO to the household if they are not included in the household when we receive the inspection. I expect there to be confusion when the number of Toys addressed do not match the number of children shown in the household. And when FEMA is confused the inspector gets a FEMA Correction (FCOR) and that will cost the inspector at least $23 (if not the entire fee for the inspection).

Another question I have is how to post a DD (Damaged Dwelling) for No Contact. We used to write the applicant's name and registration number on the No Contact note but starting last year were instructed NOT to write anything on the note that could identify the applicant. (Privacy concerns, you know. But they weren't concerned that we - the inspectors - had to include our name and phone number on the note.) That works fine when you need to post a house but what about when you have an applicant living in a large apartment building with locked doors or gates? Do we simply post our note on the gang mailbox and have 300 other applicants call us? (No one knows who the note is addressed to and you know EVERY person living there that filed an application with FEMA will call you.) [Yes, I ran into that situation multiple times last year.]

daniel nantell
08-20-2009, 06:18 PM
Your right about getting difference answers from differnt people, I dont think fema IHP is a exact science, at least at the level it trickles down to the inspector. I had one Instructors tell our class that he has been teaching somethings that were wrong for the last 15 years.
At our field briefing , they told us to write on a piece of paper " withdrawn " for apps. that wanted to withdraw their inspection and a home visit was not necessary. They have started a new job of registration Intake for Inspectors, I did that for 2 weeks on Gustov , but you have to register with Manpower to be called on that job

Dana Bostick
08-21-2009, 09:01 AM
I was deployed by PaRR for Ike and Gustov in 2008. Quite an adventure to say the least. It was my first. (and last!)

First, per their instructions, I planned for two weeks before any pay would show up so I had funds for that.. Then they changed the game and decided it would be THREE weeks. Gee, thanks!

The next game was to send you 30-40 new inspection requests, wait until you had called all of them and set appointments. (not an easy task) and then call you and say "send them all back, you are moving to Texas" they did this to me twice! Once in Baton Rouge and again in Baytown, TX.

No place to live! Housing is a HUGE issue. By the time you get to the area, all the other disaster contractors like power companies and fire crews have bulk purchased any hotel room available. I paid $100 a night in New Orleans (split 2 ways) and had to drive 75 miles each way to Baton Rouge because there was nothing available there when all my inspections got scheduled up there. When I got moved to Baytown, TX, the only thing available was a FEMA Disaster camp in Beaumount, TX that was 55 miles away. At least it was free.

Bump you cellphone plan to max minutes or get a pre-paid phone, you will be using it a LOT!
Measuring wheel: Get a BIG one that folds up. The little ones with 4 inch wheels are totally useless.
Laser measure: Invaluable. Using a tape measure to do rooms full of moldy crap and mud gets VERY old. The laser will even do the calcs for you on square footage..
Speed Estimating Factors: Not sure if they still allow these but they are a huge time saver.

Misc. I brought my own tablet computer as well as my own data card for Net access. i was able to blog the entire 50 day experience, including pictures here:
Thoughts from a Boomer (http://boomkid.blogspot.com/) Roll back to September 1, 2008 for the start of the series. It turned out to be quite popular with the friends back home and elsewhere.

Good Luck

Bruce Breedlove
08-21-2009, 09:35 PM

Your experience is not unique. When my time in New Orleans was done I called in a favor to get deployed to Thibodaux where a friend was working and there were "real" damages (LOTS of wind damage there). I downloaded about 40 inspections, filled out 90-69s for all my applicants and headed for Thibodaux first thing the next morning. My buddy got the manager to save me a room at his motel (a real fleabag motel but it was a room). While driving I scheduled 3 or 4 inspections for that afternoon so my expenses for the day would be covered.

I pulled into town, did my inspections, got my room, found something to eat and enjoyed a beer or two with my buddy (who I had not seen since Katrina in 2005). My buddy told me that he had just gotten word he was being moved to Beaumont, TX immediately. So much for getting to spend time with him.

The next morning I got the call that I was being transferred to Lake Charles to work Ike. WHAT?!?! I just got here!! I make money when I am WORKING, not when I am DRIVING!. Oh, well. Gustav was old news and Ike was new news.

So I had to destroy about 30 90-69s that I had spent an hour or two filling out. And forms were in VERY short supply at the time.

Oh, well. Those are the breaks. I was able to work about 3 weeks in Lake Charles and got a good number of inspections done. Later I went to Saint Francisville and West Monroe. It was not my best deployment ever but I made money (just not as much as I could have).

You should give PB a try. PB is better at deploying inspectors and keeping them loaded with work (according to what I have heard from PaRR inspectors I have talked to).

Measuring wheel: Get a BIG one that folds up. The little ones with 4 inch wheels are totally useless.

The big wheel measuring wheels are difficult to carry on a plane. The ones with a small wheel don't work well if you roll across the lawn but they do fine if you roll them along the siding, foundation, sidewalk, etc. I know - I have worn out two small wheel measuring wheels.

Michael Kulikowski
10-05-2009, 07:22 AM
Thats a great list. I will use it to pack for deployment. Not much work this year. Was taken off standby the other day for Georgia as PB did not det any work there. I worked Rita in 2005 and Iowa Wisconsin floods in 2008 and Ike and Gustav in the fall last year. Have you heard how many were sent to American Samoa last week. I wasn't asked. Take care.

Bruce Breedlove
10-05-2009, 11:23 AM
I don't know if PB got Am Samoa or not. I doubt that there would be a need for more than 2 or 3 dozen inspectors for that disaster. From what I have heard Am Samoa is very difficult to work but a layover in Hawaii sure is attractive.