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Following Tours of Affected Areas, Gallagher Deploys Mobile Response Unit


CONTACT: Tami Torres
(850) 413-2842

TALLAHASSEE-After touring many of the areas affected by Hurricane Frances, Florida's Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher has deployed the Department of Financial Services' Mobile Response Unit to assist Floridians in filing insurance claims and quickly resolving insurance problems.

"We've taken another hit, but Floridians are incredibly resilient," said Gallagher, who has traveled with Governor Jeb Bush over the past two days to get a firsthand look at damage caused by Frances. "Local and national support organizations, including the Red Cross and FEMA, are coming together to ensure food, water and shelter are immediately available. It's now my job to make sure insurance claims are paid quickly and that no one takes advantage of storm victims."

The department's Mobile Response Unit will be arriving in Ft. Pierce today, and will begin canvassing damaged areas. It will center operations at the Furniture Mart Shopping Center (Old Ft. Pierce Outlet Mall) at 2817 Peters Rd. in Ft. Pierce. The site is accessible from Exit 152, Okeechobee Rd., of the Florida Turnpike or Exit 129 of I-95. Available on the mobile unit are satellite and cellular phones, computers and other information resources to allow staff to assist victims immediately, in their communities. The unit will also help insurance agents and adjusters locate policyholders. Co-locating at the site are representatives from the following insurance companies: Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, Allstate, American Strategic, Florida Select, Metropolitan Property and Casualty, State Farm, First Floridian, Nationwide and Liberty Mutual.

"Thousands of Floridians have suffered tremendous losses, both from Charley and from Frances, but we will recover," said Gallagher, who served as insurance commissioner during Hurricane Andrew. "Our hurricane hotline is open at 1-800-22-STORM and consumer specialists are being mobilized in the affected communities."

Since Hurricane Charley made landfall little more than three weeks ago, the department has fielded more than 18,000 calls from consumers dealing with both storms. For Floridians coping with Hurricane Frances, frequently asked questions include: consumers searching for claims reporting phone numbers, assistance in obtaining basic necessities and debris removal. The department also has heard from many Floridians who have uninsured property loss. For those consumers, the department has forwarded requests to FEMA, at 1-800-621-3362, which can assist uninsured residents with immediate shelter needs and also in the rebuilding process.

Gallagher reminded Floridians who are returning to their homes that the recent heavy rains may continue to pose flood hazards. In such conditions, road surfaces can become obscured, causing drivers to unknowingly steer into a deep body of water, such as a canal or pond. Electricity from downed street lights or power lines can be conducted through standing water, causing a potentially deadly shock. Gallagher further advised affected Floridians to take the following actions immediately following the storm:

· Make emergency repairs to protect from 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. This will assist the adjuster in assessing the value of the destroyed property.

· 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 storm hotline at 1-800-22-STORM.

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

Consumers who are approached by an unlicensed agent or adjuster or have been the victim of an insurance fraud scam can also file a complaint online on the department's web page or by calling the storm hotline.

Consumers can also continue to call the disaster hotline at 1-800-22-STORM (1-800-227-8676) and find additional resources on the department's website at Informational flyers are also being distributed to storms victims, copies of which are also available on the above website.