Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher is urging residents along the Gulf Coast to get ready for a possible strike by Hurricane Dennis. Gallagher advised that residents can contact the department’s toll-free storm line at 1-800-22-STORM with insurance questions or for assistance with filing claims should a storm hit.
“Thousands of Floridians are still waiting for repairs to be completed from the 2004 hurricanes and I’m deeply concerned that this storm may inflict further damage,” said Gallagher, who oversees the department. “Floridians have shown incredible resilience and strength since the hurricanes of 2004. Our department stands ready to assist in any way we can.”
A hurricane watch has been issued for all of the Florida Keys and Florida Bay with a tropical storm watch for the southern Florida peninsula. Dennis had strengthened to a Category 2 storm and should be considered dangerous, with heavy rain and wind up to 105 mph possible. Florida residents should also be on alert for inland flooding.
Early preparation for a storm is essential, Gallagher said and advised that many insurance companies, including Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, may stop writing new homeowners policies when a storm is projected to make landfall in any part of Florida.
Gallagher recommends that property owners take the following actions in the event of severe weather damage:
* 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.
* If you need cash, consider withdrawing what you need because ATMs and financial institutions cannot do transactions when the electricity is out.
* If your home is damaged or is currently awaiting repairs, take steps to protect your home from further damage and document the current state of your home with photos or video.
* Immediately report property damage or any additional damage to your insurance agent and company.
* Write down the name, address and claims-reporting telephone number of your insurance company. If you must evacuate, 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 and repair people.
* If considering the assistance of a public insurance adjuster, verify that the adjuster is licensed by calling the department’s toll-free consumer helpline at 1-800-22-STORM, or 1-800-227-8676.
In the event of severe damage, adjusters may contact policyholders to help with the filing of insurance or supplemental insurance claims. Adjusters must be licensed by the state and should be able to present a copy of their license.
For more hurricane preparation tips, visit the Department of Financial Services’ Web site at www.fldfs.com.
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