Volume 3 Number 30
July 24, 2006

Department of Financial Services button
Consumer Services HelpLine Number 800-342-2762
e-mail CFO Tom Gallagher
Press Releases button
Previous Issues button
CFO location button
Subscribe to Eviews button
Unsubscribe to eViews button
Text Version buttonFlorida Department of Financial Services logo

Florida’s families and communities are safer because of men and women who accepted the challenge of more advanced training provided through the State Fire Marshal’s Office this past month.

The first program trained more than two dozen men and women and certified them to join methamphetamine (meth) lab regional response teams around the state.  That means they are able to help dismantle the toxic and deadly labs being found in homes, backyard sheds, vehicles, and hotel and motel rooms.  In a new national poll released last week, sheriffs in 48 percent of counties polled identified meth as their No. 1 drug problem.  After seeing an increase in meth lab fires and explosions here in Florida, I asked the State Fire Marshal’s Office to provide courses that would better prepare our state’s emergency responders to respond to this epidemic.  Our training, provided in partnership with the Multi-jurisdictional Counter-drug Task Force Training Center and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, is considered the most current meth lab responder training available in the nation.

The second program, which wrapped up last week at the State Fire College in Ocala, provided ongoing, intensive training to responders who are members of Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces from around Florida.  The more than 300 hours of training ended with a final exam that had the students cutting through steel and concrete in a simulation of a collapsed apartment and parking garage.  The facilities at the fire college include the only simulator in the nation that provides real smoke and fire conditions, intended to give responders the best hands-on training possible. 

Florida’s emergency responders face real and serious threats every time they leave the police station or firehouse, and as State Fire Marshal I have taken very seriously my responsibility to ensure that they are as prepared as possible.    


 

 

 

FAMILIES PREPARING FOR SCHOOL CAN SAVE MONEY ON NEEDED SUPPLIES

Families can save money on needed school supplies this week thanks to a Sales Tax Holiday approved by the Florida Legislature. State and local sales tax will not be collected on clothes, footwear, books and certain accessories selling for $50 or less, from Saturday, July 22 through midnight on Monday, July 30.  Certain school supplies selling for $10 or less are also tax-exempt during this period.

The sales tax holiday will save shoppers an estimated $32.1 million in state sales tax and an additional $7.2 million in local sales taxes. Sales tax holidays were held in 1998 through 2001 and again in 2004, 2005 and this year.

Businesses and shoppers with questions regarding the sales tax holiday can contact the Department of Revenue toll-free taxpayer assistance line at 1-800-352-3671 between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays.  For a list of items exempt from state and local sales tax, visit www.myflorida.com/dor.


 

 

 

 

CFO GALLAGHER ON CITIZENS BOARD OF GOVERNORS’ DECISION TO EXTEND BUILDERS RISK COVERAGE

Tom Gallagher, Florida’s chief financial officer, said he was pleased with the unanimous decision by the Board of Governors for Citizens Property Insurance Corporation to continue writing builders risk coverage through December 31, 2006.  The decision was made in an emergency meeting of the board of governors, which was called by Chairman Bruce Douglas.

“The action taken by Citizens will protect millions of dollars of investments throughout Florida,” said Gallagher, who oversees the Department of Financial Services.  “By allowing builders to obtain this insurance coverage, it will allow workers to stay on the job, and our economy can continue to grow.””

Gallagher sent a letter to Douglas on July 14 asking that Citizens revisit their previous decision to stop writing builders risk, which triggered the emergency board meeting.  In that letter, Gallagher stated that “by removing this coverage, many projects would be jeopardized and the impact to local communities and businesses could be devastating.


 

‘FINAL EXAM’ FOR FLORIDA’S URBAN SEARCH AND RESCUE TASK FORCES
Training has been funded by $32 million in Homeland Security funds
.

Most tests involve paper, a pencil and maybe a calculator, but this one involved concrete, steel and human resolve.

On July 20,
members of the Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Task Forces from Tampa Bay, Central Florida, Jacksonville, Tallahassee and Volusia County completed intensive structural collapse training at the Florida State Fire College in Ocala. The "victims" and the scenario were props, but the work was all real, said Tom Gallagher, Florida’s state fire marshal.

“Florida has one of the most well-prepared response systems in the country,” said Gallagher, who oversees the Division of State Fire Marshal which provided the training. “We have ensured that all of our emergency responders get hands-on training so that they are as prepared as possible for any disaster here at home.”
CONTINUED
 



 

 

GALLAGHER ANNOUNCES ARRESTS OF TWO PUBLIC ADJUSTERS IN $400,000 HURRICANE INSURANCE FRAUD CASE

MIAMI—Tom Gallagher, Florida’s chief financial officer, announced the arrests of two licensed public adjusters who fraudulently collected more than $400,000 from two insurance companies by submitting bogus contractor agreements. The arrests were made by detectives in the Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud.

“Insurance fraud leads to higher insurance premiums which hit every Floridian in the pocketbook,” said Gallagher, who oversees the department. “We will continue to follow every lead regarding possible fraudulent activity and send a strong message that such abuse of our citizens will not be tolerated.” CONTINUED


 

BFAI, FDLE, MCTFT TEAM UP TO CERTIFY METH LAB RESPONDERS

During the week of  July 10 through July 14 the Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the Multi-jurisdictional Counter-drug Task Force Training Center at the St. Petersburg College jointly sponsored a clan lab certification course with the assistance of the Bureau of Forensic Fire and Explosive Analysis.  The training was held at the Fire and Arson Lab in Quincy.

This important training and certification is critical to the state in its continuing effort to combat the clandestine drug lab problem that has grown in Florida over past years.  Funding to the class was provided by the sponsoring agencies as well as regional domestic security funds for both the Northwest and Northeast Domestic Security Regional Task Forces. 

State Fire Marshal Tom Gallagher recognized the need for this important training as part of legislative initiatives passed during the 2006 legislative session and made a priority by the State Fire Marshal.  The Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations has responded to some fifty of these labs that have exploded or ignited, an event common to some 30% of the labs around the nation. CONTINUED


 

 


STATEWIDE LAW ENFORCEMENT RADIO SYSTEM FULLY IMPLEMENTED

The recent full implementation of the Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System (SLERS) gives more than 6,500 law enforcement officers the ability to communicate with their peers throughout the state using a central radio system. With this new system, officers from various state agencies are able to effectively communicate with one another on one system.

By providing a single system, Florida is able to provide law enforcement officers responding to an emergency with a more efficient means of communications and the ability to talk to one another in real time.

"In the event of a disaster, this new communications ability will save lives and property," said State Fire Marshal Gallagher. "As first responders in emergency situations, the coordination by radio among state agencies will make a qualitative difference."