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Gallagher to Floridians: Get Ready for Hurricane Season


CONTACT: Tami Torres or Justin Glover
(850) 413-2842

TALLAHASSEE - With explosive state population growth and experts predicting the formation of more than 12 named Atlantic storms, Florida's Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher is issuing a warning to consumers: Prepare now.

"Hurricane season is just days away," said Gallagher. The official start of hurricane season is June 1. "Review your insurance coverage and consider fortifying your home to ensure you are protected if a storm strikes our state. The time to prepare for a hurricane is now, before the storm."

The National Weather Service has predicted that 12-15 tropical storms will form this year, with 6-8 becoming hurricanes and 2-4 becoming major windstorms.

Gallagher also advised Floridians to take steps to secure their homes and develop an escape plan. "Being prepared can save lives, property and a lot of heartache," Gallagher said.

He also suggested following these storm preparation tips:

· Don't wait until the last minute to buy coverage. If you're covered, carefully review your policy, especially its "declarations" page. Know whether your policy pays the "replacement cost" or "actual cash value" for a covered loss. The latter rarely will pay enough to replace a destroyed item at today's prices. You may want to upgrade your policy if it does not cover the current value of your home and its contents.

· 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 video-tape 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.

Gallagher also alerted Floridians to a new law, recently signed by the governor, designed to increase the availability of homeowners insurance and improve Florida's ability to recover financially from catastrophic hurricanes. The legislation makes improvements to Florida's Hurricane Catastrophe (Cat) Fund, a fund created after Hurricane Andrew to ensure that Florida's insurance companies could quickly pay homeowners claims after a major hurricane and continue to provide coverage.

The Cat Fund's capacity will expand from $11 billion to $15 billion in time for the 2004 hurricane season. The Cat Fund currently provides $11 billion of capacity, or reinsurance, which is insurance for insurance companies. The lack of reinsurance available through the private market, coupled with the inability of the Cat Fund to grow with the market, has resulted in a number of consumers being dropped by their insurance companies and forced into Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, the state's insurer of last resort.

According to Gallagher, several insurance carriers have committed to writing more coverage this hurricane season due to the new legislation, which goes into effect on June 1, 2004.

Representatives from the Department of Financial Services (DFS) will be participating in several Hurricane Preparedness Expos around the state throughout hurricane season. Consumer guides, tips and other useful information will be available from DFS and other organizations concerned with hurricane safety.

To find out about a Hurricane Preparedness Expo in your area or to request a free guide on "Insuring Your Home," or brochure on "Natural Disasters," visit Consumers may also call the department's toll-free Consumer Helpline at 1-800-342-2762, Monday-Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.