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Gallagher Urges Floridians to Prepare for Ernesto

8/28/2006

Tami Torres or Nina Banister   
(850) 413-2842
  
TALLAHASSEE- Tom Gallagher, Florida's chief financial officer and state fire marshal, is urging residents and visitors throughout Florida to stay alert to news regarding the path of Tropical Storm Ernesto and to complete hurricane preparations.
"Our state's experience over the past two years has highlighted the urgency and importance of being prepared," Gallagher said.  "Take steps now to make sure your family and your home are ready."
In the event of heavy storm damage, Gallagher will oversee the fire and rescue operations at the state's Emergency Operations Center and deployment of staff to assist with rescue and recovery.  
 
The Department of Financial Services' storm hotline, 1-800-22STORM, can assist residents in preparing for a storm as well as dealing with damage after a storm.  In addition, the department's website at www.fldfs.com contains a wealth of information to assist consumers in getting ready for a storm and dealing with the potential aftermath.  The website includes a Hurricane Toolkit, an Insurance Checklist, and answers to common insurance questions.
Gallagher recommends property owners take these actions before a storm:
 
• Monitor news for storm information and evacuation orders.
• 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 secured or 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.
• 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.
• Be sure you know what your deductible is for hurricane losses. 

In the event of damage, Gallagher recommends you:
 
• Never use a generator indoors or in any enclosed area including a garage, carport or sunroom.
• Avoid using candles and do not use a candle or lantern near a generator or stored fuel.
• 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 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.
 
For more hurricane preparation tips, visit the Department of Financial Services' web site at www.fldfs.com, and click on Hurricane Season 2006. 
 
"Preparedness is the best defense – both for the storm and the aftermath that could lure unlicensed adjusters and scam artists," Gallagher said.  "But more important is to heed any evacuation orders – nothing is more important than your and your family's safety."
 
Hurricane season continues until November 30.