Volume 3 Number 34
August 21, 2006

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Mayor Robaina, above far right, confers with CFO Gallagher, left, on the inspection inside the Hialeah house.

CFO Gallagher, above, speaks to the press at the house in Hialeah.

CFO Gallagher and the inspector at the St. Petersburg house.

GALLAGHER SHOWCASES FREE HOME INSPECTIONS TO PROMOTE MY SAFE FLORIDA HOME PROGRAM        

Tom Gallagher, Florida’s chief financial officer, initiated the My Safe Florida Home program by showcasing the free mitigation inspection process at homes in Miami and St. Petersburg.   

The Department of Financial Services, which is administering the program, has already received more than 70,000 applications for a free home inspection.

“By fortifying homes, we are making families and communities safer and reducing the level of catastrophic losses from hurricanes,” Gallagher said. “We are committed to making this program a success so the Legislature strongly considers funding this program for years to come.”

“It is my top priority to protect the residents of Hialeah and I am proud to work with CFO Gallagher to strengthen the homes in our community and make them safer against hurricanes,” said Julio Robaina, mayor of the City of Hialeah. “CFO Gallagher should be applauded for taking proactive steps to make our community safer and help ease our insurance burden.”  

“With the experience Florida has had in past hurricane seasons, it is imperative that strengthening the homes in our communities is a high priority,” said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker. “I applaud the state of Florida for adopting and implementing this program and look forward to working with them in the effort to better protect our residents. I am thankful that St. Petersburg was chosen as a pilot city to begin this process.”

The program was approved this year by the Legislature to address the state’s property insurance crisis following eight hurricanes that caused nearly $40 billion in insured losses in the past two years. Gallagher said of the 50,000 homes he plans to serve through the program, his goal is to inspect 12,000 homes before the end of this hurricane season.

On Wednesday, Angelina Guixens’ Hialeah home was the first to be inspected in the program in Miami-Dade County.  Then on Thursday, the home of Johnnie Mae Wynn, a senior living in St. Petersburg, got the first inspection in Pinellas County.  Both seniors, they will receive a report within 7 to10 days detailing the areas of her home that could be strengthened to better protect her and her home against hurricanes. The report will include an estimate of how much each of those improvements would cost, the expected insurance savings if the improvements were made, and a rating of the home’s current ability to withstand a hurricane and the home’s future ability with improvements.

The Miami program is being conducted through the Department of Financial Services’ partnership with Miami-Dade County’s Mitigation Program and Community Action Agency, low-income homeowners like Ms. Guixens will have the opportunity to make recommended improvements using the financial help provided through the county matching its funds with the My Safe Florida Home program.

“The state of Florida is to be applauded for taking a leadership role in making thousands of Miami-Dade County homes safer in the event of future high wind storms,” said Bill Moriarty, Director of the Weatherization Programs for the Miami-Dade County Community Action Agency.

“This new and innovative program allows us to greatly expand on our current efforts. We are now better prepared to protect the more than 2.6 million residents of Miami-Dade County,” said Frank Reddish, Local Mitigation Strategy Director for the Miami-Dade County Office of Emergency Management.

Reddish said that the Miami-Dade program has been putting free hurricane shutters on the homes of low-income elderly residents for several years. Reddish says the program is currently targeting efforts to help low-income disabled citizens. Reddish said that he works with Moriarty with the Community Action Agency to administer this program. Not one of the homes we retrofitted was damaged by the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005, Reddish said.

The Pinellas County program will be conducted in partnership with the City of St. Petersburg.

“St. Petersburg is pleased to partner with the state of Florida to provide additional assistance to our residents in helping to protect their homes from hurricane and wind damage,” said Tom de Yampert, Manager Housing & Community Development. “This program will expand our ability to offer hurricane hardening assistance to citizens in time for the 2007 hurricane season.”

To apply for a free home inspection, Floridians must live in a single-family, site-built home with an insured value of $500,000 or less and have a valid homestead exemption. Floridians can apply on-line at www.mysafefloridahome.com or by calling 1-800-342-2762 to get an application packet. Homeowners who undergo the My Safe Florida Home inspection may also qualify for matching grants of up to $5,000 to fortify their homes.

The department is partnering with city and county governments, as well as non-profit organizations, to expand the reach of the program and to strengthen a greater number of homes against catastrophic storms.