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Gallagher Reminds Floridians to Get Ready for Possible Hurricane Strike as Storm Threatens Gulf, Panhandle

8/10/2004

CONTACT: DFS Press Office
(850) 413-2842

TALLAHASSEE-With Florida's Gulf Coast being threatened for the first time this hurricane season, Florida's Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher is urging residents along the Gulf Coast and Panhandle who don't have their hurricane supplies and escape plan in order to do so now.

"Preparedness is the best defense - both for the storm and the aftermath that could lure unlicensed adjusters and scam artists," said Gallagher, who also oversees the Department of Financial Services. "It is unfortunate, but there are individuals who will try to take advantage of other people's misfortune. Residents should be wary of certain offers for assistance, especially if they demand cash."

The National Weather Service/National Hurricane Center reported this morning that Tropical Storm Bonnie is in the southern Gulf of Mexico and could make landfall as a category-one hurricane as early as Thursday morning somewhere between Pensacola and St. Marks and as far south as Sarasota.

In the event of severe damage, adjusters may contact policyholders to help with the filing of insurance claims. Public adjusters do not work for any insurance company and charge an independent fee to help file and collect on a claim. They will also require that you sign a contract. Company adjusters represent the company in determining the amount of property damage and what is covered by your policy. Adjusters must be licensed by the state and should be able to present a copy of their license.

Gallagher recommends that property owners take the following actions in the event of severe weather damage:


· Make emergency repairs to protect from further damage, document the damage and repairs in writing, and with receipts and photos.

· Immediately report property damage to your insurance agent and company.

· Maintain copies of your household inventory and other documentation, including photos. This will assist the adjuster in assessing the value of the destroyed property.


· Take precautions if the damage requires you to leave your home. Let your agent or insurance company know your temporary forwarding address and phone number.

· Beware of fly-by-night repair businesses. Hire licensed and reputable service people.

· If considering the assistance of a public insurance adjuster, verify that they are licensed by calling the department's toll-free consumer helpline at 1-800-342-2762.

· Be sure you understand how much a public insurance adjuster is charging and what services are included before signing any contract.

Gallagher also suggests these storm preparation tips:


· 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 videotape 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.

Hurricane season continues until November 1. For more hurricane preparation tips, visit the Department of Financial Services' web site at www.fldfs.com . If a storm strikes, Gallagher will activate a toll-free helpline to assist consumers with claims.