Consumer eViews

Volume 3, Number 25, June 19, 2006

The journey to preserve Babcock Ranch took another significant step to completion with Governor Jeb Bush signing the "Babcock Ranch Preservation Act" into law.  The acquisition is the largest and most expensive single parcel in the state's very successful history of purchasing land for conservation, recreation, and wildlife corridors.

The acquisition of 74,000 acres of the 92,000 acre ranch will provide a significant piece in the creation of a nature corridor from the east to west coast of south Florida. This corridor will provide critical habitat for the Florida panther, black bear and the scrub jay.

The final step to make this vision a reality will be the closing scheduled for late July.

Developer Syd Kitson is seeking approval to develop part of the ranch into a community of homes, commercial property, schools and a 27-hole golf course. A provision in the sales contract with the state provides that land-use approvals must be in place for this proposed community before the land is sold to the state.

The Sierra Club has filed a challenge against the proposed community development alleging violation of state planning standards by allowing urban sprawl. A legal challenge that could take months or more to resolve would push back the state's effort to buy the property.

Other environmental groups in support of the Babcock project fear the Sierra Club's action may hinder the effort to preserve most of the Babcock Ranch.

Preservation of this major natural ecosystem - that otherwise could be developed - is an important environmental legacy for Florida. Public access for activities such as hiking, picnicking and bird watching are in the immediate plans with the state's acquisition.

As a member of the Florida Cabinet in full support of preserving this treasure, it is my hope that the state's purchase stays on schedule for the benefit of all Floridians.

-- Tom Gallagher


Tom Gallagher, Florida’s chief financial officer, said that a judge reaffirmed her approval of the Department of Financial Services’ plan to protect and to smoothly transition nearly 330,000 policyholders with Atlantic Preferred, Southern Family and Florida Preferred insurance companies to Citizens Property Insurance Corporation on July 1. The three insurers are subsidiaries of the Tampa-based Poe Financial Group.

“We remain focused on protecting policyholders and ensuring they have continuous coverage this hurricane season,” Gallagher said. “Tropical Storm Alberto was an important reminder of the need to protect our homes and our families, and our transition plan was developed with this in mind.”

At a hearing in Tallahassee, Leon County Circuit Judge Janet Ferris heard a recent emergency motion filed by Poe officials regarding the three insurers they formerly managed. Filed last week, Poe’s motion alleged the department’s transition plan should have required Citizens to use Poe’s affiliates – Poe & Associates, Poe Managers, and Mariah – and pay fees to service policies being assumed by Citizens.

In response, the department refuted Poe’s assertion because Poe’s affiliates had long provided the employees, facilities and equipment necessary to operate the three insurance companies the judge had ordered into liquidation. The department’s response is attached.

On May 30, Judge Ferris signed orders directing the department to take control of the three insurance companies’ operations and to liquidate the companies’ assets to pay outstanding claims. On June 1, the judge approved a transition plan to help homeowners who were covered by one of the three Poe companies to automatically transition to Citizens Property Insurance Corporation on July 1.

For more information, policyholders can contact the Department of Financial Services at 1-800-342-2762 or log onto


Please join thousands of fire departments across Florida, the United States and Canada for the 2006 International Fire Fighter Safety Stand Down. Starting on June 21, and continuing until all members have participated, the stand down will suspend all non-emergency activity to focus on fire fighter safety.

Departments will respond to all emergency calls as normal but between calls fire fighters, officers and chiefs will take the time to conduct safety training and drills, review our safety-related standard operating procedures, discuss accident reports and have open conversations about fire fighter safety in the department. The focus of the stand down is on emergency vehicle safety—in particular, on seatbelt use and driving safely through intersections.

“The State Fire Marshal is committed to serving the residents of Florida. Keeping our fire fighters safe and healthy helps us respond effectively to keep our community protected,” said Tom Gallagher. “While fire fighter safety is always a priority, the Stand Down is an opportunity to dedicate a significant amount of time to the safety of our personnel.”

The stand down also serves to remind the citizens of Florida to do their part in keeping fire fighters safe. Remember to pull to the right when fire trucks or ambulances are responding, and use caution when driving by emergency scenes where fire fighters or paramedics are helping accident victims.

Last year, 106 fire fighters died in the line of duty in the United States; 26 of these deaths occurred in emergency vehicle-related accidents. Thousands more were injured while on duty. The purpose of the stand down is to call international attention to these unacceptable numbers of line-of-duty deaths and injuries and devote an entire day to the critical issue of fire fighter safety.

The stand down is sponsored by the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and the IAFC’s Volunteer and Combination Officers’ Section in partnership with nearly 20 national fire service organizations. For more information, visit


In today’s global economy, a business owner needs to know what can happen to all the hard work if the business is not correctly insured against the destructive force of a natural disaster such as a fire, tornado or hurricane. If the business does not reopen soon after a disaster, customers cab be lost to a competitor across town or to others halfway around the world. Skilled employees might have to leave to gain employment elsewhere. A fast resumption of business after a disaster is essential to the owner, the employees and the local economy. There is an applicable saying that a community does not recover from a disaster until local businesses recover.

While most business have insurance to cover their buildings and equipment, many business having to shut down following a disaster do not survive because they have no income for days, weeks or even months. Frequently, the businesses that do survive the disaster are the ones that have business interruption insurance.

Business interruption insurance compensates for lost income if a company has to vacate the premises due to disaster-related damage that is covered under the property insurance policy. Business interruption insurance covers the profits that would have been earned, based on financial records, income tax returns and recent operating statements had the disaster not occurred.

Business interruption coverage is typically not sold separately; it is either an endorsement to a property insurance policy or included in a package policy. Many options are available that can be purchased and may include lower coinsurance requirements (deductibles), payroll coverage for employees and officers and an anticipated return time to normal operations. Other options may include income lost from renting space to another business or extra contingency expense to cover higher prices paid to an alternate supplier when the original supplier is shut down and cannot deliver materials Make sure the waiting period in your policy is known that is applicable to the business.

It is recommended that a business eliminate any waiting period provision for any type of business income coverage, and instead have a known dollar deductible based the business's own level of risk tolerance. If there is a dollar deductible instead of a waiting period, the business won't be covered for the first losses up to that amount, but will immediately be covered in full for any amount above the deductible.

Services Interruption/Off Premises Power coverage can help with losses suffered from loss/damage to the property of any service provider including electrical equipment & systems, fuel, water, gas, feedstock, pulp, liquid gases, sewage, steam, telephone, fiber optic cable, telecommunications, heating, refrigeration and/or air conditioning systems, or utility plants. For example, this could include spoiled food at restaurants and supermarkets from interruption of power or telemarketers unable to communicate because of the disruption of phone lines.

The need for insurance is a fact of life in today’s business environment. Knowing how the insurance policy works, what the options are, what types of deductibles are involved and how related costs are set up are essential to the survival of the business. Business owners must meet with their Florida licensed insurance agents and review business needs on a routine basis. Schedule a meeting at least annually with the agent, financial advisor and CPA to make sure business goals are understood and that the team is working toward those goals.


E-mails to financial institution customers that fraudulently claim to be from the FDIC attempt to obtain highly sensitive personal information, including bank account information. These e-mails falsely indicate that FDIC deposit insurance is suspended until the requested customer information is provided.

FDIC Consumer Call Centers in Kansas City, Missouri, and Washington, D.C., have begun receiving a large number of complaints by consumers who received an e-mail that has the appearance of being sent from the FDIC. The e-mail informs the recipient that Department of Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge has advised the FDIC to suspend all deposit insurance on the recipient’s bank account due to suspected violations of the USA PATRIOT Act. The e-mail further indicates that deposit insurance will be suspended until personal identity, including bank account information, can be verified.

This e-mail was not sent by the FDIC and is a fraudulent attempt to obtain personal information from consumers. Financial institutions and consumers should NOT access the link provided within the body of the e-mail and should NOT under any circumstances provide any personal information through this media.

The FDIC is attempting to identify the source of the e-mails and disrupt the transmission. Until this is achieved, consumers are asked to report any similar attempts to obtain this information to the FDIC by sending information to

Consumer Services HelpLine (800) 342-2762