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  1. #1
    Michael Wright's Avatar
    Michael Wright Guest

    Default Disaster Inspectors

    (skip to the numbered questions if you don't feel like reading my introduction)

    Hello, I found this site while searching for information on the net regarding the two companies that contract disaster inspectors for FEMA. I searched the site for as much information as I could find so please forgive me if something I post has already been posted somewhere else before. Anyways, here it goes:

    I am a 22-year old looking to make some decent money so I can save up for the future. I have my Associate's Degree and have worked numerous jobs before, but none of it really had anything to do with construction or real estate, which I discovered to be two of the preferred types of experience for prospective inspectors. I wasn't planning on pursuing this, but I had heard from someone who's friend was in Texas right now (I'm located in Georgia) doing the same thing and has been for about six years. I currently have no committments and I am a pretty independent person so that is why I'm really interested in the opportunity. I hear it is a lot of hard work, but I think I'm at the point in my life where I need to test my ability to work hard and have my level of success determined by how I approach my work. Not to mention the pay seems to beat working the jobs that I've had so far. I came on this site to get as much information as possible so any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Questions:
    1. Like I mentioned earlier, I have virtually no experience other than helping put together a deck or something at a friend's house here and there, along with a stagecraft class that I took in college. I am considering going to a workshop in Dallas (all the way from GA) that Parr is conducting this week. They currently have nothing else scheduled on their site that would be any closer to me, but the workshop is required before you can move on to the online part of training. Now my question is, would it be worth it to fly out there (I can go standby round-trip and end up spending less than $200) and take the class so I can start the qualification process as soon as possible?

    2. I also tried registering with PB Disaster, but one of their servers have been down since I first tried on Tuesday and I have called on three seperate occasions, all of which they took my name and number and have said someone would contact me within one day to register over the phone but that has yet to happen. Once I get registered, then I can take their online training courses which seems a lot better than flying to Houston. My question is though, are you allowed to be in the pool as an inspector for both Parr and PB at the same time, or just one or the other? I figured if you can, then it might increase your chances of getting deployed wouldn't it? Which leads me to the next question.

    3. Say I do go through with the training and complete it for either one, or both of the companies (and pass the background check), does anyone have an idea of what my chances of actually getting deployed anywhere soon would be? Particularly when you factor in my inexperience, age, and the number of inspectors they have deployed right now. I guess what I'm trying to say is, are my chances fairly good or is it one of those cases where they let anybody "try out" but there's really no chance from the beginning that I would make the team?

    I apologize for the length of my post and I don't expect anyone's answers to be the same, so just any kind of help would be awesome.

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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
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    Default Re: Disaster Inspectors

    Michael,

    The lack of response to your Post is likely due to I don't want to be the bearer of bad news.

    The likely hood of you being deployed for inspections of the current events are very slim.

    If this is something you think you want to prepare for my suggestion would be to wait and take the course when it becomes available in your area.

    The Instructors of the course could advise you on how to proceed from that point.

    Best,
    .

    It Might have Choked Artie But it ain't gone'a choke Stymie! Our Gang " The Pooch " (1932)
    Billy J. Stephens HI Service Memphis TN.

  3. #3
    mike huntzinger's Avatar
    mike huntzinger Guest

    Default Re: Disaster Inspectors

    If I were you I would do some ride alongs witha inspector in your area to see if this job is your cup of tea. Its not for everyone


  4. #4
    Ron Bibler's Avatar
    Ron Bibler Guest

    Default Re: Disaster Inspectors

    Somebody say something about tea?

    Best

    Ron


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    Ft. Myers, FL
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    Default Re: Disaster Inspectors

    I took the Dallas class yesterday (Sunday.) From what the instructor said, as long as you pass the background check and have a pulse you most certainly will be deployed. From the looks of some of the people in the class, well, never mind...

    Paul Kondzich
    Ft. Myers, FL.

  6. #6
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Disaster Inspectors

    Paul,

    Do you think that the instructor is going to tell you that you wasted your time, your class fee and your not going to make a buck at all?

    They got your money and you'll probably never see a disaster site unless it hits your own home. Everyone thinks that a disaster is a money making opportunity when business is slow. Just not the case.

    As far as the looks of those people in the class, the govt. probably paid their fees for the class.

    JMHO


  7. #7
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    Default Re: Disaster Inspectors

    The class was free for everyone. I personally know some people in Houston now, and there is a severe lack of inspectors. The first wave of inspectors is past the 30 deployment, and are ready to go home. I did do a LITTLE research before I went.


    JMHO

    Paul Kondzich
    Ft. Myers, FL.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Disaster Inspectors

    Paul,

    Are you sure their even taking inspector people from out of state?

    rick


  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    Ft. Myers, FL
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    Default Re: Disaster Inspectors

    Rick, Yes they are, at least for FEMA. I have also talked with Pilot Catastrophy and might go that route adjusting for insurance companies. In the Pilot case, you need to be licensed in TX. but that is taken care of before you are deployed. I assume you dont have to be with FEMA because its Federally run.

    Last edited by Paul Kondzich; 10-06-2008 at 03:02 PM. Reason: sp
    Paul Kondzich
    Ft. Myers, FL.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Disaster Inspectors

    There are lots of different skills you would use as a FEMA disaster inspector, a construction background is most useful. People skills, organizing skills, map reading, a huge tolerance for last minuet changes and good money management.

    Two of the biggest problems I have are finding these clients in the boon docks with no steet signs or house numbers, and dealing with the freaking rental car companies.

    Housing can be a big problem. All the hotels are full of evacuees and other disaster service workers on expense accounts. You may find yourself sleeping in your car/truck or bunking with a total stranger, male or female. I've done both on this deployment.

    FEMA does set up disaster camps for workers but they are not always close to where you will be working. I drove 55 miles each way for about 1-1/2 weeks.

    To make decent money you need to crank out at least 10 inspections per day consistently. Then yore get home and do 2-3 hours of phone calling and paperwork. Makes for long days! Interesting work but not for everyone.

    Good Luck!

    True Professionals, Inc. Property Consultant
    877-466-8504

  11. #11
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    Mar 2007
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    Default Re: Disaster Inspectors

    Dana, I have a question. After reading the contract, it says they will fly you there, and make the arrangements. Or, they will pay mileage at 500 miles at the going rate. Would not you be better off driving, even if its over 500 miles and save the money on a rental car for 30 days. Just wondering.

    Last edited by Paul Kondzich; 10-06-2008 at 05:59 PM. Reason: sp
    Paul Kondzich
    Ft. Myers, FL.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Disaster Inspectors

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Kondzich View Post
    Dana, I have a question. After reading the contract, it says they will fly you there, and make the arrangements. Or, they will pay mileage at 500 miles at the going rate. Would not you be better off driving, even if its over 500 miles and save the money on a rental car for 30 days. Just wondering.
    In retrospect Yes. At $ 150-200 per week it ads up. I wish I had brought mine.
    Dana

    True Professionals, Inc. Property Consultant
    877-466-8504

  13. #13
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Disaster Inspectors

    Michael,

    I apologize for my response being a bit late but I just returned a couple of days ago from an 8-week disaster deployment with PB Disaster Services (formerly Parsons Brinckerhoff, aka PB). Having done around 1,700 FEMA inspections over the last 5 years I am probably as qualified as anyone to answer your questions.

    My first advice to you is - IF you decide to pursue FEMA disaster inspection work - don't wait until a disaster has happened to begin your training. Watch for a workshop in your area and take the training there. That will save you a LOT of money (because, while the training is free, your travel costs are on you). I don't know if you pursued the training in Texas but a month ago I would have advised you to forget this hurricane season and do your training next Spring.

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Wright View Post
    I am a 22-year old looking to make some decent money so I can save up for the future. I have my Associate's Degree and have worked numerous jobs before, but none of it really had anything to do with construction or real estate, which I discovered to be two of the preferred types of experience for prospective inspectors. I wasn't planning on pursuing this, but I had heard from someone who's friend was in Texas right now (I'm located in Georgia) doing the same thing and has been for about six years.

    While it is still possible to make "decent" money doing FEMA disaster inspection work it is very, very difficult, if not impossible, to make really good money under the current conditions.

    On the surface, FEMA disaster inspections are not difficult to perform. You should have a basic understanding of how houses are put together and how to estimate quantities (roof covering, sheetrock, floor covering, etc.) but you need not be a builder, home inspector or engineer to do the work (although those prerequisites certainly do help).

    Your friend has a distinct advantage that you do not have - experience. That experience will garner him deployment earlier than you and possibly deployment to a more lucrative area.

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Wright View Post
    I currently have no committments and I am a pretty independent person so that is why I'm really interested in the opportunity. I hear it is a lot of hard work, but I think I'm at the point in my life where I need to test my ability to work hard and have my level of success determined by how I approach my work. Not to mention the pay seems to beat working the jobs that I've had so far.

    Having no committments is a benefit and being independent is a requirement for this work. It is a lot of hard work. While you are an independent contractor and you set your own hours, to be successful (and make money) you have to work some LONG hours. Seven days a week.

    Don't believe what you may have heard about making BIG money doing this work. Those days are gone. Don't forget that FEMA inspectors pay ALL their expenses in the field (e.g., rental car, motel, gasoline, food, cell phone, etc.). With the cost of everything (gasoline, rental car, motel and food) higher but the pay rate stuck at $50 per inspection you can expect to spend close to $150 a day, EVERY day. That means your first 3 inspections only cover your costs in the field. Add your costs back home and you need to do a heck of a lot more than 3 inspections a day.

    While I had an occassional day where I did 11 inspections I also had some days where I only did 2 or 3 inspections (primarily because I kept running out of work for some reason). I averaged less than 7 inspections per day over the 8 weeks. I kept asking myself why I was sleeping in Motel Hell (if you have never stayed in a motel along with evacuees and tree trimmers you are in for a new experience), eating one meal a day and working 16 - 17 hours a day to make maybe $175 on average. (Do the math. That's $10/hr. Not enough for the hardships we must endure to do this work.) Sure some days I made $400 but that happened maybe twice. Other days I drove all over creation to do 3 inspections and broke even.

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Wright View Post
    1. Like I mentioned earlier, I have virtually no experience other than helping put together a deck or something at a friend's house here and there, along with a stagecraft class that I took in college.

    I don't know what a stagecraft class is but you only need a basic understanding of how a house is put together to do this work. If you know the difference between a floor joist and a rafter you should do fine.

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Wright View Post
    2. I also tried registering with PB Disaster, but one of their servers have been down since I first tried on Tuesday and I have called on three seperate occasions, all of which they took my name and number and have said someone would contact me within one day to register over the phone but that has yet to happen. Once I get registered, then I can take their online training courses which seems a lot better than flying to Houston. My question is though, are you allowed to be in the pool as an inspector for both Parr and PB at the same time, or just one or the other? I figured if you can, then it might increase your chances of getting deployed wouldn't it? Which leads me to the next question.

    The worst time to try to contact either of the two FEMA contractors (PaRR and PB) is during a disaster.

    Once you get your training and clear your background check you will receive a FEMA Housing Inspector number. That means that you are a FEMA inspector, not a PB inspector or a PaRR inspector. You can work for either contractor or both contractors if you wish. Each contractor will require that you satisfactorily complete THEIR training before going to work for them because, while both contractors are working toward a common goal they do things differently.

    While FEMA conducts the background check I am not sure if you would need to clear a background check for both contractors or if one clearance is all you need.

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Wright View Post
    3. Say I do go through with the training and complete it for either one, or both of the companies (and pass the background check), does anyone have an idea of what my chances of actually getting deployed anywhere soon would be? Particularly when you factor in my inexperience, age, and the number of inspectors they have deployed right now. I guess what I'm trying to say is, are my chances fairly good or is it one of those cases where they let anybody "try out" but there's really no chance from the beginning that I would make the team?

    I can only tell you what my experience was. After my training it took over 2 years for me to be deployed. In my original workshop with PB in 2001 we were told in no uncertain terms that we would be working as independent contractors on an as-needed basis only and that, with very, very few exceptions, not to expect to make enough money doing this work to survive the entire year.

    We were also told that when a disaster is declared the first inspectors deployed are the most experienced, those with recent experience and those that do the highest-quality work. New inspectors go to the bottom of the ladder.

    I took another workshop in 2002 and still did not get deployed. It was not until October 2003 that I was deployed. And that was a "mini flood" in Cleveland that only inexperienced inspectors would agree to go to. About the time I figured out how to do the work they sent me home. I think I did 30 or 35 inspections on that deployment. Not enough to make one cent. But it got me off the bottom of the ladder and up on the first rung.

    My next deployment was the Spring of '04. Flooding in West Virginia. That is a proving ground for new inspectors (because experienced inspectors don't want to do those disasters). Seems like I worked about 4 weeks on that disaster. It was hard work - lots of driving into "hollers", difficult to communicate with applicants, very poor cell phone service, etc. But it was more experience that got me further up the ladder.

    When Hurricane Charley hit Florida in '04 I was deployed and ended up working 10 weeks on 3 of the 4 hurricanes that struck Florida.

    On large disasters (like Hurricane Ike), both contractors constantly train and deploy new inspectors until the disaster is closed. Inspectors who deployed at the beginning of the disaster burn out and go home and must be replaced. My guess is that if a contractor trains you you would have at least a fair chance of getting deployed - eventually. You might have a long wait before you get deployed - they will deploy you when they need you. Your needs have no bearing on anything.

    You need to understand another thing - new inspectors are kept on a short leash on their first deployment until they demonstrate they know how to perform the inspections. PB assigns new inspectors (and inspectors that do not have recent experience) to a Team Leader and gives these inspectors only a handful of inspections with instructions to only do 2 or 3 inspections. Those inspections are reviewed by the Team Leader and your (many) mistakes pointed out. You repeat the process until the Team Leader is satisfied that you know what you are doing. At that point you are released to go out start making money. While you will be paid for the inspections you do while under the Team Leader do not expect to make any money those first 2 or 3 (or more) days. New inspectors must pay their dues.


    Quote Originally Posted by mike huntzinger View Post
    If I were you I would do some ride alongs witha inspector in your area to see if this job is your cup of tea. Its not for everyone

    Dur to privacy concerns, if you do not have a FEMA background clearance AND a FEMA badge you are not permitted to ride with a FEMA inspector, much less tag along on an inspection. In fact, inspectors who allow anyone without the background clearance AND badge to ride along, act as a guide or a translator, step on an applicant's property, attend inspections, schedule appointments, process paperwork, or anything else that would compromise an applicant's privacy is subject to immediate dismissal.

    That's just one of a LONG list of things that will get you fired.


    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Hurst View Post
    Are you sure their even taking inspector people from out of state?

    While I did not work in Texas this deployment (only Louisiana) I know many "out-of-state" inspectors that were deployed to Texas. I don't know what the high water level was but at one point I know that both contractors had around 1,400 inspectors deployed in Texas and Louisiana. That's almost 3,000 inspectors. I doubt there are 2,000 or more FEMA inspectors that are residents of Texas.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Kondzich View Post
    I have a question. After reading the contract, it says they will fly you there, and make the arrangements. Or, they will pay mileage at 500 miles at the going rate. Would not you be better off driving, even if its over 500 miles and save the money on a rental car for 30 days. Just wondering.

    Paul,

    I woulldn't drive to a disaster. For one thing you will get there later and miss out on one or two day's worth of work. Those missed inspections would pay for a rental car for a month or two. Plus you will arrive at the disaster field office tired from driving. Then you get to drive even more from the disaster field office to your assigned area. That will affect how many inspections you can crank out those first few days.

    And, depending on the disaster, I don't necessarily want to subject my car to the conditions found after a disaster. If the wind is severe there may be roofing nails and other debris all over the place. That's rough on your tires. Some inspections require you to drive over some pretty rough roads. I'd rather subject a rental car to those conditions. In Florida someone hit the fender of my rental car while I was on an inspection. While that cost me about $700 out of my pocket at least it was not MY car that was damaged.

    Paul, if you are at the local ASHI meeting next week we can discuss this further.

    Last edited by Bruce Breedlove; 03-04-2009 at 04:38 PM.
    "Baseball is like church. Many attend but few understand." Leo Durocher
    Bruce Breedlove
    www.avaloninspection.com

  14. #14

    Default Re: Disaster Inspectors

    Michael-I agree with most of what Bruce said is his long and informative post. The word in the field is that PB is a "cluster F***". It seemed to me that there was a lot in infighting going on about who, company wise, would get deployed to which area. I worked for PaRR but ran into PB guys in both LA and TX as I was working.

    I don't know how the system works for FEMA but they could have done it a lot more efficiently. Many times I was doing one mobile home in a park and ther would be one or more other inspectors in the same park at the same time. I'm sure there were others when I was not there to see them. What a waste of manpower and time! It could be about the timing of the applicants request for help. We often joked about comparing notes and swapping out inspections and each taking one area. Of course, this is not possible with FEMA. Once it is asigned, it's yours until you find the bugger or give up and send it back. Then they send it back out to another poor slob who gets to try again for two more weeks. I actually got a few of those and found the applicant on the second go around.

    Bruce is right about the nails etc. I did get one flat. No biggie. You can put "flat proof" in the tires and survive that easily. The cost of the rental was secondary for me compared to th lost time hasseling with the rental company about extending contracts and drop off fees for out of area vehicle etc. the Phone bank a** holes in Bangladesh or somewhere are no help and have limited authority to do anything. Every time, it took me showing up at the counter and getting in their face to resolve the issue and avoid the additional charges. All told, I lost about four inspection days out of 50 on this deployment to that little game alone. I would still take my own vehicle.

    Ideally, I would take a small motothome or even a camper and tow a small economy car or truck. Have a nice 2-3 KW generator installed in it and big holding tanks and you have everything you need to be totally independent. Only fuel and possible hook-up fees for the times you want to hit a park.

    Another fun time waster is getting a download of 30-40 inspections from FEMA, taking the time to be "efficient" and pre-filling out the 90-69's and then getting a call to send them all back! "You are moving to a new area". Crap!!! they did that to me twice. Lost another 3-4 days moving and finding new lodging for a base and downloading new inspections. Then you need to set them up in the mapping program and start calling for appointments all over again. I had people call me back 2 weeks late telling me they were back now and could meet tomorrow. Problem was that I was now down near Galveston and they were back in Baton Rouge, LA. Only 400 miles, no problem! LOL

    I soon discovered that actually finding these applicants is the problem. House numbers have obviously been outlawed in Texas and Louisiana other than a few rebels that put them up anyway. Street signs? Forget about it! The storm or tree falls take those out too.
    Absolutely! Repeat, Absolutely have a good, working GPS. It is a life and time saver. While not fail safe, it is the only way to find your way around in the sticks. My main one that I use all the time in Los Angeles crapped out of course as soon as I got there. I had to default to the VZNavigator on my cell phone. It worked but was not ideal.

    Now that I have "worked the kinks out" of the game, I might do it again. The experience was worth it. Financially, maybe not this time but I learned a lot and that is worth something.
    Dana

    True Professionals, Inc. Property Consultant
    877-466-8504

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