Volume 2 Number 38
September 19, 2005


Consumer Services HelpLine Number 800-342-2762






 

 

 

 

 

GALLAGHER: SOUTH FLORIDIANS MUST PREPARE

Tropical Storm Rita Could Become Strong Category
Two or Three Hurricane

Florida’s Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Tom Gallagher is urging residents and visitors from Jupiter to the Florida Keys and up to Englewood on the Gulf to prepare for Tropical Storm Rita, which could be a strong Category Two or Category Three hurricane when it passes the Lower Keys sometime tomorrow afternoon. Residents in the Lower Keys are under a mandatory evacuation, and Gallagher is urging compliance.

“This storm is forecast to produce surges up to nine feet, which could cover many of the islands,” said Gallagher, who as State Fire Marshal oversees search and rescue functions at the Emergency Operations Center. “I know it is overwhelming, given the number of storms that have hit our state in the past year, but we are facing another serious storm.  Get prepared and comply with any evacuation orders.”

The Department of Financial Services’ storm hotline, 1-800-22-STORM, has remained activated since last year’s four hurricanes pummeled the state.  The hotline can assist residents in preparing for a storm as well as dealing with damage after a storm.

The state’s meteorologist this morning said a high-pressure ridge that was expected to keep the storm on a westerly track is quickly dissipating, making conditions optimal for a northern turn toward the Gulf Coast. Gallagher said Panhandle residents should also be vigilant.

Gallagher recommends that property owners take the following actions in the event of severe weather damage:

 •           Make emergency repairs to protect from further damage, document the damage and repairs in writing, and with receipts and photos.
•           Immediately report property damage to your insurance agent and company.
•           Maintain copies of your household inventory and other documentation, including photos.  This will assist the adjuster in assessing the value of the destroyed property.
•           Take precautions if the damage requires you to leave your home.  Let your agent or insurance company know your temporary forwarding address and phone number.  
•           Beware of fly-by-night repair businesses. Hire licensed and reputable service people.
•           If considering the assistance of a public insurance adjuster, verify that they are licensed by calling the department’s toll-free consumer helpline at 1-800-342-2762.
•           Be sure you understand how much a public insurance adjuster is charging and what services are included before signing any contract.

Gallagher also suggests these storm preparation tips:

 •           Be sure you know what your deductible is for hurricane losses.  Most policies now have a hurricane deductible of two to five percent of a home’s insured value.  If your property is damaged, you will be responsible for a portion of the repair costs.
•           Inventory your household items, including receipts, purchase dates and serial numbers.  Photograph or videotape your possessions.  Keep copies of this information and your insurance policies in a safe place and keep the originals in a safe deposit box.
•           Write down the name, address and claims-reporting telephone number of your insurance company, which may differ from your agent’s contact information.  Keep this information in a safe place and make sure you have access to it if you are forced to evacuate your home.
•           When a hurricane threatens, take action to protect your property.  Buy the materials you need to secure your property and minimize your losses.  Cover your windows with shutters, siding or plywood.  Move vehicles into a garage or carport when possible.  Grills and/or patio furniture should be moved inside.
•           Keep materials such as plywood and plastic on hand in case you need to make temporary repairs after a storm.  Keep receipts for those repairs so that your insurance company can reimburse you.

Hurricane season continues until November 30.  For more hurricane preparation tips, visit the Department of Financial Services’ web site at www.MyFloridaCFO.com.  

“Preparedness is the best defense – both for the storm and the aftermath that could lure unlicensed adjusters and scam artists,” Gallagher said.  “But more important is to heed any evacuation orders – nothing is more important than your and your family’s life.”

The new courthouse in Indian River County, named for the scenic body of water running between the barrier islands and the mainland along Florida's Treasure Coast. America's first National Wildlife Refuge was established on Pelican Island in the Indian River by Theodore Roosevelt in 1903.