1. Get a pre-blast survey, even if blasting has already started. Pre-blast surveys (even ones conducted after blasting starts) provide comparison data that can be used to back up damage claims. Coal companies are required to do pre-blast surveys for residents within 7/10 mile of where blasting will occur and within 1/2 mile of the mine permit boundary, free of charge. If they did not offer you one prior to mining, request one and file a complaint with the DEP.
2. Damage often occurs beyond the half-mile and 7/10 mile limitsclaimed by SMCRA. Get a pre-blast survey even if you live outside these limits. Damage from low-frequency vibration is actually more likely beyond the half-mile limit.
3. DEP inspectors most likely will not use your pre-blast survey when investigating your blasting complaint. Instead, DEP inspectors rely on blast logs written and stored by the mine operator. The pre-blast survey's true value is its use in court cases.
4. Hire your own contractor to do the pre-blast survey, if you can. Do not trust the mine operator to provide you with a complete or accurate pre-blast survey.
5. Cover all structures and every aspect of them in the pre-blast survey, including things such as an inventory of objects on shelves that might be shaken off. Document all cracks, including length, and the condition of doors and windows.
6. Take pictures of everything. Take your own pictures with your own camera and make sure the surveyor takes pictures of the same things. All pictures should be time-stamped if possible. Pictures should be taken of the entire house and property and should include not only damaged but also undamaged areas. If you have an intact wall, take a picture of that intact wall so that if damage does occur you can prove it was not damaged prior to blasting.