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Gallagher Deploys Mobile Assistance Units for Floridians Impacted by Wilma

10/26/2005

CONTACT: 
Tami Torres or Bob Lotane
(850) 413-2842 
  
Announcement follows fly-over with Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson
 
TALLAHASSEE – Tom Gallagher, Florida's chief financial officer, has deployed mobile assistance units to both Southeast  and Southwest Florida to help hurricane victims begin the recovery process.  The mobile units are staffed with the Department of Financial Services' consumer specialists who can help affected Floridians reach their insurance companies, start the claims process, and understand what steps they should take.
 
"So many Floridians were impacted because of the wide path of destruction caused by Wilma, and we are here to help," said Gallagher, who was on-hand for the opening of the mobile response unit in Plantation.  "My goal is to make sure no one takes advantage of storm victims and that insurance claims are paid quickly.   I'm encouraging Floridians to be patient as officials work to restore power and distribute critical items such as food, ice and water."
 
In Broward County, the mobile response unit is now open for operation at 6901 West Sunrise Boulevard in Plantation, across the street from Plantation High School.  In Collier County, the response unit is set up in the Wal-Mart parking lot at 3451 Tamiami Trail East in Naples.
 
Available on the mobile units are cellular phones, computers and other information resources to allow staff to help victims contact their insurance companies, file claims, get answers to questions they may have about their policies, and verify licensure of adjusters.  The mobile assistance unit hours are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
 
Consumers can also call the department's storm hotline at 1-800-22-STORM for assistance.  The hotline is available Monday through Sunday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.  Gallagher said that the department has already received nearly 200 calls from storm victims.
 
Gallagher, who as Florida's state fire marshal oversees search and rescue functions when the state's Emergency Operations Center is activated, said search and rescue operations – which involved more than 300 officers from various state agencies – are concluding.
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 the adjuster is 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.
 
A consumer who is approached by an unlicensed agent or adjuster or has 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. 
 
As a statewide elected officer of the Florida Cabinet, Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher oversees the Department of Financial Services, a multi-division state agency responsible for management of state funds and unclaimed property, assisting consumers who request information and help related to financial services, and investigating financial fraud. As former insurance commissioner, Gallagher is best known for his leadership in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew.  He marshaled public and private, state and federal resources to expedite claims handling and protect consumers against price gouging, creating an environment where affected Floridians could start on the road to recovery. Gallagher also serves as the State Fire Marshal.