Consumer eViews
FLORIDA CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER ALEX SINK'S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

Volume 4, Number 19, May 11, 2007

Dear Floridian:

As you may know, wildfires have broken out across the state.  Currently, more than 220 wildfires are burning in 89,000 acres in 54 counties.  Some residences have been lost, but fortunately, no Floridians have been injured by the fires.  

The Division of Forestry is the lead agency when the fires are located in the woods.  As the State Fire Marshal, we are working to protect Florida’s homes and businesses from the fires.  Working with local fire departments, we have currently deployed more than 90 fire units (including fire trucks and over 360 fire personnel). 

In order to stay safe, please take the following actions:

  • Stay indoors—limit the inhalation of smoke and ash. If you are not comfortable in your home, seek alternative shelter

  • Be cautious on the highway—there may be smoke on the highways. Turn on your lights, slow down or pull over. Do NOT stop in the middle of the road.

  • Be careful with fire—many counties in Florida have instituted a burn ban. Please pay attention to any open fire source including cigarette butts.

  • Protect your pets- move animals inside if possible and take your pets with you if directed to evacuate by local officials.

  • Protect your home—Remove all brush, mulch and debris within 30 feet of your home and property during high fire conditions.

  • Evacuations-- Please monitor evacuation orders for both your residence and workplace (as they may be different). If your area is placed under evacuation orders due to wildfire, please follow local evacuation procedures. Please keep in mind that evacuation orders may be given under short notice. If you evacuate, please take your pets and insurance paperwork with you. Also, save all receipts while you have evacuated, as you may be eligible for reimbursement from your insurance company.

  • Prepare an emergency plan-- You can learn more about preparing an emergency plan at www.floridadisaster.org.

Sincerely,

--Alex Sink


ARSON AWARENESS WEEK FOCUSES ON COSTLY VEHICLE ARSON
CFO Sink:  “Think You’ll Get Away With It, Think Again”


Florida Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Alex Sink announced a slate of events scheduled this week throughout Florida to bring attention to costs and risks associated with vehicle arson.   The events are part of Arson Awareness Week, which began on Sunday, May 6, and continues through Saturday, May 12.  The theme is “Vehicle Arson:  Who Pays for This Crime?”

The motives for vehicle arson are varied and range from thieves hiding evidence of a crime to owners trying to get out of expensive leases.  Last year in Florida, more than 6,800 passenger vehicles burned causing 20 deaths and 51 injuries, including 12 firefighter injuries. Criminal charges relating to vehicle arson can result in prison sentences ranging from five to 30 years per count. 

“Arson is a violent crime because there is always the risk of someone getting hurt or killed,” said CFO Sink.  “Our intention this week is to get the word out that if you think you’ll get away with it, think again.  Our arson detectives are among the best in the nation and the odds are in our favor.”

As part of Arson Awareness Week, the Division of State Fire Marshal, Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations (BFAI), and the Tallahassee Fire Department staged a mock vehicle arson investigation.  The public watched as a vehicle is set on fire and arson detectives, including a K-9 team, investigated and collected evidence.  The demonstration continued at the state arson laboratory where forensic chemists tested and verified the collected evidence.  

Other activities around the state include the Governor and Cabinet signing a resolution declaring this week Arson Awareness Week, a proclamation to be signed by the Osceola County Commission commemorating Arson Awareness Week, public discussions on how to prevent vehicle arson, an essay contest for elementary school students in Broward County, and displays and other activities designed to draw attention to the risks and costs associated with vehicle arson.

CFO Sink is urging Floridians to help stop vehicle arson by following these steps:
• Always park your vehicle in a well-lit area.
• Close all windows.
• Remove key from ignition.
• Always lock doors, trunk and tailgate.
• Use anti-theft devices.
• Report any abandoned vehicle to local law enforcement authorities.

 Sometimes vehicle fires are caused by electrical or mechanical problems, and CFO Sink offered the following advice in the event of a vehicle fire:

• Get yourself and others out of the vehicle as quickly as possible.
• Call 911.
• Stay away from the vehicle.
• Do not attempt to extinguish the fire yourself.
• Do not open the hood or trunk if you suspect a fire. 

Following are events planned for Arson Awareness Week in Florida: 

Tuesday, May 8, 2007 - Arson Awareness Week proclamation will be presented by the Osceola County Commission during a meeting at 6 p.m. at Kissimmee City Hall. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2007 - Mock vehicle arson investigation at 10 a.m. at the Tallahassee Fire Department Training Facility, located at 2964 Municipal Way in Tallahassee.  The mock investigation will continue at the state arson laboratory at the Pat Thomas Law Enforcement Academy on Route 90 West near Quincy. 

Also, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. the BFAI and Tampa Fire-Rescue will have an Arson Awareness Week display on the Franklin Street Mall near the Tampa Police Department.   

Thursday, May 10, 2007 - The Panama City Office and Northwest region of the BFAI along with fire departments and members of the law enforcement community will discuss vehicle arson at a meeting at 9 a.m. at the Panama City Fire Department, located at 600 E. Business Highway 98, in Panama City. 

Also, the Fort Myers Field Office of the State Fire Marshal’s Office, in conjunction with the Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud, and the Fort Myers Fire Department, Fire Prevention Unit, will participate in a display with emphasis on the fraud aspect of vehicle arson.  The display will be inside Edison Mall, (the Dillards’ court area), 4125 Cleveland Ave., Fort Myers, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.  

Friday, May 11, 2007 - Detective Greg Gilkey, of the West Palm Beach BFAI office, and his new K-9 partner, Ember, a yellow Labrador Retriever, will be graduating from the State Farm-sponsored Arson Dog School in Alfred, Maine, after completing a five-week training program certified by the Maine Criminal Justice Academy.  The BFAI has five K-9 arson teams. 

May 15 and 18, 2007 - The winners of an essay contest coordinated by the State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, Department of Fire Rescue, will be announced.  The contest includes fourth and fifth graders at several schools, and the overall winner will receive four tickets to a Florida Marlin’s game.   Also, arson detectives from both offices will be speaking during Arson Awareness Week to various youth groups about the dangers and consequences of arson. 


CFO SINK URGES FLORIDIANS TO BE ALERT FOR EVACUATION ORDERS

With wildfires threatening homes and communities throughout the state, Florida Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Alex Sink urged Floridians to be prepared to heed any orders to evacuate. 

“All Floridians must be on alert for possible wildfires and be ready to evacuate if ordered to do so,” said CFO Sink.  “We must all take steps to be safe and protect our homes and others, by complying with burn bans and being cautious with fire.  I can assure you that we will take aggressive action against anyone who intentionally or carelessly starts a fire.” 

The State Fire Marshal’s Office is coordinating fire and rescue operations at the state’s Emergency Operations Center, which has been activated to respond to more than 210 wildfires burning more than 86,000 acres around the state.  In addition to corralling equipment and personnel to fight the fires, CFO Sink said the Department of Financial Services, which houses the State Fire Marshal’s Office, is on standby to help homeowners with insurance questions.  CFO Sink said homeowners affected by the wildfires should take the following steps: 

  • If forced to evacuate your home, take your insurance information with you.
  • Let your agent or insurance company know your temporary forwarding address and phone number. 
  • Keep all receipts for meals, lodging and other expenses related to being evacuated and call your agent to find out if the Additional Living Expense coverage on your homeowners’ policy applies.
  • If you return to find your home damaged, call your insurance agent immediately and make emergency repairs to prevent further damage.  Document the damage and repairs in writing and with receipts and photos.
  • Maintain copies of your household inventory and other documentation, including photos, to assist the adjuster in assessing the value of the destroyed property.
  • For help contacting your agent or insurance company regarding filing a claim, or to ensure that an insurance adjuster you are dealing with is licensed, call the department's Consumer Helpline hotline at 1-800-342-2762.
  • Beware of fly-by-night repair businesses. Hire licensed and reputable service people.
     

TAMPA BAY UNITED WAY WOMEN'S LEADERSHIP AWARD GOES TO CFO SINK

Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink was presented the Tampa Bay United Way’s Women’s Leadership award for her outstanding service in her community and to the United Way.   Upon being presented the award, Tampa Bay United Way President Diana Baker introduced CFO Sink with the following remarks: 

“When her kids need a cheerleader - Alex is there with enthusiasm.

When her husband needs a loyal partner - Alex is there with loving respect.

When her church needs a committed volunteer - Alex is there with selfless resolve.

When her friends just want to have fun - Alex is there with her gift of hospitality.

When local not-for-profits need to build buildings - Alex is there with boldness to ask.

When industry leaders need a rising star - Alex is there with perspective and vision.

When the community acknowledges its issues - Alex is the first to give generously to address the problem.

When business needs wisdom - Alex is there to lend her expertise.

And, when the political system needs leadership - Alex is there to set the example. 

“I have told Alex many times how proud I am of her accomplishments and how grateful I am to have her in my life.  I can't remember the first time I met Alex, but since that time she has led United Way committees, campaigns, and board meetings.  She has been a faithful contributor and constant supporter of United Way and the community in general.  She has on occasion been my conscience, and always my friend.   


CURRENT, FORMER HEADS OF KIDCARE URGE QUICK SAVE BY LAWMAKERS 

Three days after the Florida Legislature ended its annual session without steps to bolster a program that provides low-cost health insurance for hundreds of thousands of kids, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink urged Gov. Charlie Crist and legislative leaders to shore up the program during an upcoming special session.  

Without quick action, the state's KidCare program will continue to operate as a complicated bureaucratic maze, leaving tens of thousands of children without affordable coverage for doctor office visits, prescription medicines and hospital costs.

Nelson, who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2000, served the previous six years as Florida's treasurer and insurance commissioner, a position that also involved his overseeing the Healthy Kids Board, a component of the state's insurance program for school-age kids.  "The health of our children determines not just their well-being but their ability to flourish in life," Nelson said in statement issued in Washington, D.C., today.  Nelson's former state posts were combined with the Florida comptroller's into the new position of chief financial officer. 

"It's essential that we reform the Florida KidCare program this year," said CFO Sink, the current chair of the Healthy Kids Board.  "Sen. Nelson and I are calling upon the governor and legislative leadership to add this important issue to the upcoming special session." 

Over the past few years, more than 100,000 Florida children have lost their health insurance coverage through the KidCare program.  By failing to invest in this critical program, the state continues to lose millions in federal funding, as every state dollar invested in KidCare earns a two dollar match from the federal government.  If Florida fails to reform KidCare, the state will continue to lose more federal funding to other states and thousands of children will only receive health care from local emergency rooms at higher taxpayer expense. 

Sink added she was pleased to see some additional funding in the state budget, but without the critically needed KidCare enrollment process changes, the money will have a hard time reaching these families.  "What good is additional funding if the families can't access it because the program is more convoluted than a spaghetti factory?" questioned CFO Sink. 

The Florida KidCare program, once a model program for the nation, is a public-private partnership that helps eligible workings families purchase affordable health insurance for their children.  Currently, Florida has the second-highest percentage of uninsured children - 17 percent - behind Texas.  More than 500,000 additional children are estimated to be eligible for the KidCare program, if adequately funded and streamlined to make it easier for families.
 



ANNUAL LAW ENFORCEMENT MEMORIAL SERVICE HELD

On Monday May 7th, Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink participated in the Fraternal Order of Police 25th Annual Police Memorial Service outside the Capitol.  At the memorial, the Fraternal Order of Police remembered the 666 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty in the State of Florida.

Every year the Fraternal Order of Police publishes the names of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.  This year’s list marked the 25th Anniversary Edition of the Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial Ceremony Program.  During 2006, the following police officers were killed in the line of duty: 

Joseph S. Hover, St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office, October 8, 2005

John Michael Piskator, Key West Police Department, January 23, 2006

Ryan Christopher Seguin, Broward County Sheriff’s Office, February 15, 2006

Juan Serrano, Tampa Police Department, February 25, 2006

William “Buddy” Sentner, U.S. Department of Justice – Office of Inspector General, June 21, 2006

Michael A. Callin, Orange County Sheriff’s Office, August 2, 2006

Vernon Matthew Williams, Polk County Sheriff’s Office, September 28, 2006

Christopher C. Daniels, Sr., Lake County Sheriff’s Office, October 14, 2006

Margena Silva Nunze, Lee County Sheriff’s Office, October 22, 2006

Brian Keith Tephford, Broward County Sheriff’s Office, November 12, 2006


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