For the most part, PB became Vanguard with most of the key employees.
With Vanguard, the only thing an inspector has to pay for and get reimbursed on is the rental car. Everything else can be arranged through their travel agent. ALL airfare has to go through a certain travel agency. Which is a FEMA regulation. I find it easier to pay for lodging myself and get reimbursed as I can make arrangements myself.
I hear stories all the time about the old days. Handwritten reports and Polaroid photos. Sleeping in cars and tents. Eating nothing but peanut butter for weeks on end. Those days are gone.
We use iPads and are no longer allowed to take photos. A few years ago, I had to drive 3 1/2 hours each way to get to my work area. That was only for a few days. That deployment I changed hotels 9 times in 14 days until I was able to stay in the last one for an extended period. Since then, I have gone to the quick response team where I am one of the first to deploy. Often times pre-deploying. This is huge in getting a hotel ahead of the rush and getting a rental car. It is nice to call up Hilton and reserve a room for 60 days. You really have to treat everything like a business, which many don’t. Something as simple as eating $20.00 - $30.00 a night over the GSA reimbursable rate to keep from driving a couple hours a day is an easy ROI. Some people complain that the per-diem rate isn’t enough. Which is mind blowing. I prefer to not eat more than 1 meal a day. A medium pizza can last me 3 days, if there is a fridge in the room.
I did FEMA work from 1996 to 2005 and always had a tablet, I think the pen and paper went out before Hurricane Andrew in 1992. We used a “Toughbook” for years and went to a tablet I think around 2002. When I lived in MS, I used my travel trailer on a few deployments the were along the Gulfcoast. The last one I worked was Katrina in 2005. I also learned that food was always available if I was near a Red Cross or Good Samaritan relief center, they would go out of their way to make sure FEMA workers and all relief workers were taken care of.