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Gallagher Urges Residents to Take Advantage of Tax Savings and Prepare for Hurricane Season

5/24/2006

CONTACT: Tami Torres or Nina Banister
(850) 413-2842
 
TALLAHASSEE –Tom Gallagher, Florida's chief financial officer and state fire marshal, is urging Floridians to take advantage of the Hurricane Preparation Tax Free Holiday, going on now until June 1 when the 2006 hurricane season begins.  Gallagher also announced that the Department of Financial Services' is offering a Hurricane Toolkit to help homeowners organize their financial information, so recovery can begin more quickly in the event of a disaster, along with a checklist they can use to review their insurance coverage with their agent.
 
 "Another active hurricane season is in the forecast and, while we can't control the weather, we can control its impact on our lives," said Gallagher, who as CFO oversees the Department of Financial Services and as state fire marshal oversees search and rescue operations when the state's Emergency Operations Center is activated. 
 
"It is vitally important to take personal responsibility now by stocking up on supplies and preparing your home, your finances and your family," Gallagher said. "The more we prepare now, the quicker we will be able to respond and recover from any potential hurricane."
 
The tax holiday is intended to provide an incentive for Floridians to stock up on items like flashlights, batteries, generators and storm shutters, and is expected to generate more than $41 million in tax savings.  For more information on items included in the tax holiday, visit www.fldfs.com and click on "Hurricane Season 2006."
 
Eight storms struck Florida in 2004 and 2005 and damaged an estimated one in five homes.  To help lessen potential hurricane damage, the Legislature and governor earlier this month approved $250 million for inspections and matching grants to help Floridians enhance their homes so they can better withstand a storm.  The department is currently working to implement the program, and Gallagher said the program is expected to be in place by early fall. 
 
In addition to taking advantage of the tax holiday, Gallagher is urging homeowners to use the department's new Hurricane Toolkit to organize their financial information.  The toolkit will help jumpstart the recovery process should disaster strike.     
 
"We've learned to take steps to minimize the physical damage storms can inflict; however, many of us may not think about being financially prepared for a storm," Gallagher said.  "This toolkit will provide the financial tools you and your family will need to recover from a disaster."

The department has also created a checklist, available at www.fldfs.com, designed to help Floridians review their coverage with their agent and understand what their policy covers and what their potential out-of-pocket costs could be.  Gallagher said consumers should understand whether they have "replacement cost" or "actual cash value" for a covered loss and what their deductible would be under each potential peril.  In addition, homeowners should strongly consider adding flood insurance and law and ordinance coverage to help pay for rebuilding an older home to meet current building codes.
 
Gallagher said Floridians also should:
 
• 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.
 
• Designate a relative or friend who lives outside of the area or the state as a family contact in the event of a disaster.  This is the person your family should call if they get separated during a storm.
• Buy the materials you need to secure your property and minimize your losses.  Cover your windows with shutters, or stock up on siding or plywood. 
 
• Store gasoline for generators safely.  Store only as much gasoline as you will need to operate your generator for 72 hours and store the gasoline away from any source that may produce heat or a spark.  Condominium owners should note that state law forbids bringing gasoline into a multi-residential unit, and that using a generator on a balcony is not advisable because deadly carbon monoxide fumes could seep back in through an opening in the balcony door.
 
• Create a disaster survival kit.  Each member of your family -- including pets -- should have their own survival kit that includes water, food, extra medications, flashlight and batteries, photos of other family members, contact numbers, cash and/or credit cards and a change of clothes. 
 
For more tips or to download the Hurricane Toolkit or checklist, visit www.fldfs.com and click on "Hurricane Season 2006" or call the Department of Financial Services' Consumer Services Helpline at 1-800-342-2762.