GALLAGHER MOBILIZES SEARCH AND RESCUE, CONSUMER ASSISTANCE TO AREAS IMPACTED BY HURRICANE WILMA
Tom Gallagher, Florida’s state fire marshal, said more than 300 search and rescue officers are now fanning out in the southwest Florida area and are heading toward southeast Florida and the Keys to assist in search and rescue.
In addition, Gallagher said the Department of Financial Services’ consumer assistance specialists and mobile response units have been dispatched to set up tomorrow in Naples, West Palm Beach, and Miami to help hurricane victims begin the recovery process. Gallagher said consumers can also obtain assistance by calling the department’s Hurricane Hotline at 1-800-22-STORM from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“This hurricane inflicted widespread damage, and a lot of people will need immediate assistance,” said Gallagher, who oversees the department. “Our thoughts and prayers are with our friends and neighbors who have been hit by the storm. The primary concern is the health and safety of those who are in the affected areas; then we will work to help them get resources to repair homes and businesses.” The State Fire Marshal’s Office joined members of other state agencies on Saturday in Miami, Orlando and Tampa so they could be ready to move into affected areas as soon as the storm passes to begin search and rescue missions. Other team members include representatives of the Fish and Wildlife Commission, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Law enforcement officers from the department’s Division of Insurance Fraud are also standing by to assist with law enforcement functions.
Noting most deaths and injuries happen in the aftermath of a storm, Gallagher offered the following suggestions to help residents stay safe:
• Use generators with extreme caution. Do not use them indoors or in garages. Keep them outdoors where fumes cannot enter the home and keep them dry. Do not refuel generators until they have a chance to cool off.
• Beware of signing contracts with public adjusters. Public adjusters do not work for insurance companies or independent adjusting firms. Public adjusters contract with the policyholders to settle claims and are paid a percentage of any claim settlement. • If available, use a credit card to finance emergency repairs and document all transactions. Your insurance policy allows you to make emergency repairs to prevent further damage to your home or its contents. Materials such as plywood, tarp and duct tape used to keep rain from entering your home are reimbursable as well as labor costs to complete repairs.