The effects of a natural disaster are devastating, and survivors are often left with one basic question: where will I live now? Disaster response teams flock to the most affected areas to provide food, clothing and arrange temporary living assignments. As the days and weeks pass, it comes time to rebuild. FEMA allocates funding for home building, but as the contractor, you will work directly with the people who suffered those losses. This can escalate an already stressful situation, so begin your rebuilding approach with a few crucial factors in mind.
Your community needs to know your business is ready to help. Effective messaging can address the trauma, but that doesn’t mean your marketing voice has to be completely somber. Be direct coming from a place of authentic care and support. A good approach would be to keep it simple: your audience is members of your community.
It’s likely that some of the people who need your services the most are friends, family and colleagues. What would you need to know in their situation, and how would you need to hear it? Your tone could be informative with some warmth – you aren’t building houses. You are welcoming your community home.
What to expect
To help homeowners start the rebuilding process, FEMA offers the Building Codes Toolkit for Homeowners and Occupants. This booklet offers a plethora of information, but one of the biggest parts is a checklist of questions to ask general contractors. This checklist ranges from licensing and insurance to permits and inspections.
Familiarize yourself with these questions and have the answers ready for your first conversation. Not only will this prepare you for the contract, but it will also signal any red flags that the client may not know about. For example, if the client’s home was old there may be new building codes to which a new structure must adhere to qualify for public assistance funding. If the client doesn’t mention any new building codes that may be relevant, you can get ahead of the issue by asking if they’re aware of the new standards. It may have been an accidental oversight, but it could also affect the scope of work they want.
Anticipating needs and potential oversights make your project run more smoothly but it will also show your client that you are well-versed in your industry. In asking those questions, you show your expertise and trustworthiness – two traits most needed while navigating post-disaster rebuilding.
Scope of work
Understanding expectations will also help you notice any requests that may be outside of the scope of work allowed with public assistance funding. Different geographic areas have different needs, thus different scopes of work as well. For example, homes in certain flood zones may require the space below the home to either not be enclosed or is surrounded with specific materials, like a wooden or plastic lattice or insect screening.
As an industry professional, you are already knowledgeable about how certain materials will perform. Familiarizing yourself with FEMA material requirements will help you and your client save time, money and peace of mind.
Disaster relief is a precarious time for you and your community. You know your community’s needs on a personal level, but you also know their needs as clients. When you understand FEMA requirements, you can anticipate professionally while supporting your community personally.