When you’re saying your prayers during and after a disaster, don’t forget the part where it says, “lead us not into temptation.” It seems too many folks are led into temptation when it comes to thinking they can get more money out of the federal government in times of disaster. In my book, I talk about ways people have tried to put one over on me and other inspectors. I also provide details about what you can and can’t use #FEMAfunds for. (Hint: You can’t use it to have a diamond embedded in your tooth.)
Don’t think you can get more money from FEMA by exaggerating the extent of your damages or working a deal with a CFI. Fraud from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita totaled more than one billion dollars. Even with the established penalties of a quarter-million dollars in fines, jail time, or both, fraudsters still take chances. Because of the enormity of the fraud in these hurricanes, the National Center for Disaster Fraud was started. This group relentlessly pursues open cases, and it may take them years but someone who made a fraudulent claim will be pursued to the greatest extent possible. You might not even know you’ve been discovered until you file annual income tax and receive a letter informing you that all future tax refunds are being withheld.
The fallout from Hurricane Sandy is still being painfully felt by New Yorkers who are being faced with demands for the return of their FEMA money. See more in this NY Post article from the last quarter of 2014.
And check out this NJ woman’s story.
Don’t find yourself delivered into evil. Fraud hurts everybody but no one worse than yourself.
God Bless America.
If you read my book, you know that pigs and I have a history. Oh man, those shoes! And all that fatback!!
Well, on a sort of related note, what do you think about wild boars? They are nothing to mess with. I went on a hunting trip for boars with nothing but a spear and a knife. Not for everyone!
Here’s another question for you. What do you think about caves? Ha!
Well, I know that boars and caves may be things that some people are afraid of, but if you’re like me and not afraid of too much, you should head over to Haena Beach Park on Kauai. Haena Beach Park is the home of the Maniniholo Dry Cave and the Waikanaloa Wet Cave. Both are worth a visit, and you can enjoy some great hiking in this park too. Just pay attention to the warnings about boars and look out if you see one because they don’t mess around.
What do Pig Farms, Wild Boars and #KauaiCaves have in common? Nada. Except they’ve all been a part of my adventures.
It was January 1994 and the jolt woke us with a start. Earthquake…a big one! We leaped out of bed. I remember the noise, the total confusion and the pain as our china cabinet struck me on the back and broken glass went everywhere. I remember seeing that my girlfriend had taken a hit from a lamp and was already showing a huge knot on her head. We had to struggle to open the door because the building was literally collapsing and warping around us. We screamed for our neighbors to help us, and together we got the door to open.
For the next few minutes, everything is chaos in my memory, and then we were in the parking lot. No more screaming, no more terror of a building coming down on us, and clearly no more home to go to.
Barefoot, bleeding and wearing only sweatpants, I realized we needed medical care. At the hospital, we were turned away because we weren’t critical. I could see that the nurses weren’t lying. It was a nightmare.
Heading to my sister’s home, our hopes were dashed when we saw she had lost everything too. The only place for us was the bare lot, a collection of grass and dirt, across the street from her home. We camped there for the next three days, and thankfully the people who did not suffer total losses helped us out.
Without their first aid supplies, water, clothing, food and even their barbecue, we would never had made it through. These people were truly a godsend.
And then what? I waited for three weeks after my FEMA inspection [where the inspector was clearly incompetent] to receive my letter for relocation assistance. I was declined. I was declined even though the building was “red tagged” and collapsed!
I wish there was a book like this back then! I could have read it to educate myself about how FEMA worked, and may have spared myself some major headaches. It would have been real helpful to know before an earthquake that I should have secured the china cabinet to the wall, never hang pictures over my bed and so much more.
If I had Robert’s book, I would have known how to deal with #FEMAinspectors and even FEMA itself. Instead of housing assistance alone, I would have known how to appeal and to get money for my personal property. I would have kept every receipt, deducted losses from my taxes and so much more.
Don’t be a “shoulda, woulda, coulda” person like me. Buy this book, use the advice on every page, and prepare yourself for disasters and the even worse disasters that sometimes follow.
After a disaster, the FEMA inspector at your door might be inexperienced, incompetent or impaired.
I spend a lot of my book talking about how a contract #FEMAinspector (CFI) is a real human being taking time out of their real life to help you, most often with the best intentions and the most professional demeanor. But it is true, (as we saw in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy) that the inspector at your door might sometimes be a bit more human than it is in your best interests.
You need to know that if you are worried about a FEMA inspector’s behavior or professionalism, if you fear you received a “kitchen inspection,” if your inspector seems to be lost through the process, you may be right. You have recourse. You can always appeal your inspection.
I encourage you to ask a few questions about the FEMA inspector’s background. “Did you do tornado (or relevant disaster) work in the past?” “How long have you been inspecting?” You have every right to know the truth about your CFI, and it is up to you to figure out whether or not they are doing the best job possible for you.
One of the major contractors had trained more than 90,000 CFIs and yet when Hurricane Sandy devastated New York and New Jersey, only 3,000 showed up. The high turnover rate for CFIs is a problem, and in the wake of each disaster, rookies have to be trained to handle the number of inspections. Many of the inspections done after Hurricane Sandy, for example, were done by rookies, and may have been substandard and are probably valid candidates for appeals from the applicants. I don’t know how many of the applications were appealed, but I doubt it was anywhere near the number that could have been easily challenged.
If you’d like to learn more about what to expect and what to watch out for when you open the door to a FEMA inspector, I have a chapter in my book devoted to this.
When #HurricaneIniki hit in 1992 and I headed over as a CFI with #FEMA to Kauai for the major relief effort, I used the local #radio station, KONG radio, to establish myself there on the island. I called in to the show and secured myself a guide and a driver from the airport (cool!). Accommodations were less than stellar— we were jammed ten to a room and sleeping on cots in a hotel conference room (not cool)!
I guess KONG liked my radio voice, because I was invited to the radio station to deliver disaster relief news and advice, which I did gladly. I gave praise to the Red Cross and told listeners about MARS units of portable phone banks that the military would make available.
I talked about some of the things the National Guard’s men could do to help. I informed people that they didn’t have to just sit and wait for help. We had Disaster Assistance Centers that could give them all of the basics—food, water, sleeping bags, lights, MREs and a hot meal at the center. I reminded people about the dangers of candles and the danger of ingesting contaminated tap water.
I consistently used the broadcasts to help the islanders be safe, get support and to get their inspections done. But it was hard for us inspectors to live like sardines, and we were growing more and more fatigued.
The radio broadcasts brought attention from other media outlets, and when I ended up on CNN, I used my airtime to tell the media they were hogging all of the available accommodations and not contributing to the relief effort (You can read more about this in my book).
FEMA heard about this broadcast and told me to stop being a part of any broadcast. They said I had no business giving out information. FEMA wanted to control everything that had their name associated with it, and directly attacking the media was not something they would endorse.
Well, now I’m back on the air, taking a chance and delivering the disaster preparedness message to an audience of over 10 million so far. And telling my stories.
If you haven’t heard my show in your market, you can listen to one of my interviews here, and get a copy of my book. I now have another book out, Disaster Manual for Financial Recovery which includes what you need in case of a disaster to get the most financial assistance from the government. Buy it here for your ebook reader or in paperback.
Have you visited me on Facebook? I’ve got my radio and personal appearances listed there, and there are a bunch coming up. Come say Hi!