Volume 1, Number 38, September 20, 2004
This weekend as I toured the storm-ravaged beaches and communities around Pensacola, I saw a house – battered from Hurricane Ivan – with this message outlined on its roof:
“We love Pensacola.”
That kind of spirit will be the glue that puts those communities back together and will help individuals to get through the heartache and loss.
It appears that every structure has suffered damage, and in many cases where there was a home there is now just a slab. Numerous roads and bridges are heavily damaged, making it a true challenge to transport food, water, ice and other assistance.
Our northwest Panhandle neighbors, like those who are cleaning up after hurricanes Charley and Frances, have suffered an incredibly hard hit. But I also saw good things: neighbors helping each other and a great deal of patience, resilience, and determination. The cleanup has begun, relief items are being flown in, and electricity is being turned back on in many places.
It’s hard to imagine now, but I have faith that Pensacola and all of the hard-hit communities throughout Florida will come back stronger than ever.
Yours in service,
-- Tom Gallagher
GALLAGHER ANNOUNCES INSURANCE ‘SUPER-CENTER’
DFS Pensacola mobile unit a ‘one-stop shop’ for most policyholders filing claims
weekend tours of storm-damaged areas in Pensacola, Florida’s Chief Financial
Officer Tom Gallagher today announced an insurance “super-center” at the
Department of Financial Services’ mobile headquarters in Pensacola. Consumers
visiting the location will have access to state consumer specialists and
customer service representatives from most major insurance companies.
GALLAGHER DEPLOYS MOBILE RESPONSE UNIT TO PANHANDLE
Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, who toured panhandle counties affected by Hurricane Ivan, has mobilized the Department of Financial Services’ Mobile Response Unit to assist storm victims in filing insurance claims and quickly resolving insurance problems.
“Though storm victims are still focusing on the immediate needs of food, water and shelter, we stand ready to help with the rebuilding process,” said Gallagher. “It’s my job to make sure insurance claims are paid quickly, that adjusters meet with homeowners in a timely manner and that no one takes advantage of Floridians coping with Ivan’s aftermath.”
The department’s Mobile Response Unit will be arriving in Pensacola , and consumer specialists will begin canvassing damaged areas. It will center operations at the University Mall, 7171 North Davis Hwy., in Pensacola. Available on the mobile unit are satellite and cellular phones, computers and other information resources to allow staff to assist victims immediately, in their communities. The unit will also help insurance agents and adjusters locate policyholders.
“As I have seen with Floridians who went through both Hurricane Charley and Frances, the people of this state are incredibly resilient,” Gallagher said. “We will recover and rebuild.”
Gallagher reminded Floridians that the state’s hurricane hotline remains available at 1-800-22-STORM, where consumer specialists have helped more than 30,000 individuals and families since Hurricane Charley made landfall last month.
Gallagher reminded Floridians who are returning to their homes that the recent heavy rains may continue to pose flood hazards. In such conditions, road surfaces can become obscured, causing drivers to unknowingly steer into a deep body of water, such as a canal or pond. Electricity from downed street lights or power lines can be conducted through standing water, causing a potentially deadly shock. Gallagher further advised affected Floridians to take the following actions immediately following the storm:
· Make emergency repairs to protect from further damage, document the damage and repairs in writing, and with receipts and photos.
Consumers who are approached by an unlicensed agent or adjuster or have been the victim of an insurance fraud scam can also file a complaint online on the department's web page or by calling the storm hotline.
Consumers can also continue to call the disaster hotline at 1-800-22-STORM (1-800-227-8676) and find additional resources on the department’s website at www.MyFloridaCFO.com. Informational flyers are also being distributed to storms victims, copies of which are also available on the above website.
GALLAGHER TO LENDING INDUSTRY: REACH OUT WITH DISASTER RECOVERY ASSISTANCE
Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher is
asking lenders to offer a compassionate response to Floridians dealing with the
devastating aftermath of Hurricanes Charley and Frances, including eliminating
fees for lending transactions and granting loan payment extensions to affected
Gallagher offered the following suggestions for lenders assisting borrowers who are in the process of rebuilding after the storms. Within prudent lending guidelines, lenders should recognize individual circumstances and consider the following:
o Reducing or suspending payments.
o Allowing for skipped payments.
o Extending repayment terms on loans.
o Refinancing loans.
o Increasing credit line and credit card limits.
Consumers needing storm related assistance should call the Department of Financial Services’ hurricane hotline at 1-800-22-STORM.
GALLAGHER PROVIDES UPDATE ON DFS’ EMERGENCY RESPONSE EFFORTS
Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, who also serves as the State Fire Marshal, today offered an update on search and rescue efforts and thanked emergency responders for their crucial, life-saving actions.
“Our initial response to major disaster is critical when lives are at stake,” said Gallagher, who oversees the Department of Financial Services. “The jobs of first responders are a reminder of why we’re here - to help Floridians in their time of need.”
The State Fire Marshal’s Office, which is responsible for mobilizing search and rescue efforts from the state Emergency Operations Center during an emergency, has since Thursday been activated to assist Floridians coping with the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan. Currently, the office is coordinating four FEMA urban search and rescue teams, six state search and rescue teams and 40 teams of firefighters with equipment available to assist local emergency responders.
These efforts are in addition to State Fire Marshal personnel who yesterday assisted local and state rescue workers in clearing roadways and boat ramps of debris to allow rescue crews to get to stranded or wounded Floridians. Today, State Fire Marshal teams are aiding rescue forces in Perdido Island and East Milton and searching for individuals who may have been trapped due to building collapses.
The department’s Division of Insurance Fraud will be mobilized to support law enforcement efforts in storm-affected areas in preventing looting and other crimes associated with natural disasters, including insurance scams and price gouging.
“I’m incredibly proud of the response of our employees, who have been working around the clock, and of all the state and local emergency responders,” Gallagher said. “Many of our emergency coordinators have been on the job since Tropical Storm Bonnie, more than a month ago.”
Gallagher, who yesterday laid the groundwork for insurance consumer specialists to enter storm-damaged areas in the panhandle to assist consumers in contacting their insurance companies and filing claims, said he would continue to provide support and resources to first responders as long as search and rescue efforts lasted.
Recovery efforts continue in south and central Florida as victims of Hurricanes Charley and Frances begin rebuilding their homes and businesses. Gallagher, who served as insurance commissioner during Hurricane Andrew, has redeployed insurance specialists and volunteers into affected areas, and the state’s hurricane hotline remains open at 1-800-22-STORM. More than 30,000 Floridians have been assisted with insurance questions and complaints.
FLOOD LOSSES AREN'T COVERED BY YOUR HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE POLICY
Here's how "flood" is defined by the National Flood Insurance Program:
"A general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of two or more acres of normally dry land area or of two or more properties (at least one of which is the policyholder's property) from:
in plain English, a flood is an excess of water (or mud) on land that's normally
Dangerous or damaging floods don't always mean dramatic, rushing waters through the streets of your hometown. Just a single inch of water can cause costly damage to your home! Keep this in mind when you're considering flood insurance.
There's something you should know: Flood losses aren't covered by your homeowners insurance policy.Floodwaters have the power to damage not only your home and sense of security, but also your financial future. How can you protect your most important investment in case of flooding?
Option 1: Hope that you'll receive Federal disaster relief if a flood hits.
Many people wrongly believe that the U.S. government will take care of all their financial needs if they suffer damage due to flooding. The truth is that Federal disaster assistance is only available if the President formally declares a disaster. Even if you do get disaster assistance, it's often a loan you have to repay, with interest, in addition to your mortgage loan that you still owe on the damaged property.
Most importantly, you must consider the fact that if your home is flooded and disaster assistance isn't offered, you'll have to shoulder the massive damage costs alone.
The bottom line? If you're looking for secure protection from financial loss due to flood damage, Federal disaster assistance is not the answer.
Option 2: Buy flood insurance and stay protected no matter what.
When disaster strikes, flood insurance policyholder claims are paid even if a disaster is not Federally declared.
Flood insurance means you'll be reimbursed for all your covered losses. And unlike Federal aid, it never has to be repaid.
As long as your community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), you're eligible to purchase flood insurance. To find out if your community participates, check the Community Status Book on FEMA.gov.
As a homeowner, you can insure your home up to $250,000 and its contents up to $100,000. If you're a renter, you can cover your belongings up to $100,000. As a non-residential property owner, you can insure your building and its contents up to $500,000.
In general, a policy does not take effect until 30 days after you purchase flood insurance. So, if the weather forecast announces a flood alert for your area and you go to purchase coverage, it's already too late. You will not be insured if you buy a policy a few days before a flood.
A flood insurance policy is easy to get, affordable and offers invaluable peace of mind. With flood insurance, you know you're covered … no matter what.
Unlike a standard homeowners policy, flood insurance covers losses to your property caused by flooding.
Some of the things a standard flood policy will cover include:
You can also buy a flood insurance policy to cover the contents of your home, such as furniture, collectibles, clothing, jewelry and artwork.
Policies are available in three forms: Dwelling (most homes), General Property (apartments and businesses), and Residential Condominium Building Association (condominiums).
It's important to know that if you have a federally backed mortgage on a home located in a high-risk zone, federal law requires you to purchase flood insurance. Also, if you've received a federal grant for previous flood losses, you must have a flood policy to qualify for future aid.
Buying flood insurance is the best thing you can do to protect your home, your business, family, and financial security.
FINANCING HOME REPAIRS: CONSUMER
If you need to finance your home repairs, and a mortgage or lien will be placed against your property, use this checklist prior to signing any contract!
Determine if your contractor is:
completed contract SHOULD NOT have any blank spaces and MUST include:
Florida Department of Financial Services