UPDATED: Insurance Complaint Hotline, Storm Scams, and More

NOTE: If you have concerns about how your property (home or business) claim is being handled, please call the Florida CFO's Consumer Insurance Hotline at 1-877-693-5236 or 1-877-MY-FL-CFO. Or go here to to file complaints in various formats. 

How to Protect Yourself: Price-Gouging After a Hurricane

Source: The Florida Attorney General's Office

Price Gouging After a Hurricane

The victims of any natural disaster, be it a hurricane, flood or earthquake, have unfortunately become victims of scam artists out to profit from the misery of others. Below is some information on how to protect yourself from becoming a further victim after an initial disaster strikes.

Following Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the State of Florida enacted a law that prohibits "price gouging" after a declared state of emergency.

The law bans unconscionable increases in prices in the rental or sale of essential commodities, which would include lumber, ice, water, chemicals, generators, shelter and other necessary goods and services once a state of emergency has been declared by the governor. It is also unlawful to raise hotel rental rates or housing lease rates under Florida’s price gouging laws. Other states may have similar laws, which also impose penalties on violators.

The Florida Office of the Attorney General investigates every allegation of price gouging. Pursuant to Florida’s price gouging laws, the Office of the Attorney General compares the reported price of the commodity or service during the declared state of emergency to the average price charged over the 30-day period prior to the state of emergency. If there is a “gross disparity” between the prior price and the current charge, it is considered price gouging. It is not considered price gouging if the seller can justify the current price by showing an increase in the price of their supplies or market trends. Additionally, the price gouging statute does not apply to non-essential luxury goods like alcoholic beverages and cigarettes.

Violators of the price gouging statute are subject to civil penalties of $1,000 per violation and up to a total of $25,000 for multiple violations committed in a single 24-hour period. In addition to the civil penalties for price gouging, state law criminalizes the sale of goods and services to the public without possession of an occupational license. Violators of the law can be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor.

Following a disaster, qualified contractors are in high demand, making conditions ideal for scam artists.

If your home is damaged, be sure to follow these tips when hiring a contractor:

  • Be wary of anyone who approaches you unsolicited or says they can perform your repairs at a discount with leftover supplies from another job.
  • Have your insurance company evaluate the damage before arranging repairs to ensure that the work will be covered under your policy.
  • Get at least three written, itemized estimates or bids on repairs.
  • Verify that the contractor has a license from the Department of Business & Professional Regulation (DBPR) or your county construction licensing board. A licensed contractor can be looked up and verified on the DPBR website (www.MyFloridaLicense.com).
  • Research the company and its reputation – ask for references. In addition to DPBR, you may also contact the Attorney General’s hotline (1-866-9-NO-SCAM) and the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org) to see if there are complaints against the company.
  • Check for proof of insurance and verify with the insurer that their policy is current.
  • Check to see if the contractor is bonded and verify with the bonding agency.
  • Never pay the full amount of a repair up front and hesitate before providing large deposits. Florida law requires a contractor to apply for a permit within 30 days and start work within 90 days if he collects more than 10 percent of the contract up front.
  • Read the entire contract, including the fine print, before signing and ensure that the contract includes the required “buyer’s right to cancel” (within 3 days) language.
  • Homeowners may unknowingly have liens placed against their properties by suppliers or subcontractors who have not been paid by the contractor. If the contractor fails to pay them, the liens will remain on the title. Insist on releases of any liens that could be placed on the property from all subcontractors prior to making final payments.
  • Do not sign a certificate of completion or make final payment until you are satisfied with the work performed.

Only do business with reputable contractors and businessmen.

Someone selling generators off of a truck on the corner may have stolen them, or they may be inoperable. Someone driving through a neighborhood offering to patch roofs or remove fallen trees may never be seen again after he collects the deposit or payment.

File a complaint.

Report an instance of price gouging or contractor fraud during a declared state of emergency to the Attorney General’s Office online at www.myfloridalegal.com or by calling toll-free at 1-866-9-NO-SCAM. Additionally, you may report unlicensed contractors to the Department of Business & Professional Regulation online at www.myfloridalicense.com or by calling 1-866-532-1440.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEOctober 18, 2018

CONTACT: GOVERNOR’S PRESS OFFICE

(850) 717-9282media@eog.myflorida.com 

Gov. Scott Issues Updates on Hurricane Michael Response

 TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Governor Rick Scott is in constant communication with federal, state and local emergency management officials and state agency leaders to ensure that communities impacted by Hurricane Michael are receiving the resources they need. Governor Scott has surveyed damage from Hurricane Michael in Bay, Gadsden, Washington, Liberty, Calhoun, Gulf, Holmes, Wakulla, Franklin and Jackson counties. Today, the Governor issued Executive Order 18-283 which gives Supervisors of Elections in Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Jackson, Liberty, and Washington counties the authority to extend and enhance voting options based on needs and challenges they have identified.

Following Governor Scott’s request, President Donald Trump issued a Major Disaster Declaration for Hurricane Michael. See the declaration HERE. On October 7th, Governor Scott declared a state of emergency in 26 Florida counties, and expanded it to include 35 counties total on October 8th. To see his Emergency Order, click HERE

Following a request by Governor Scott, and approval by FEMA, families in the following counties are now eligible for FEMA Individual Assistance:  

  • Bay
  • Franklin
  • Gulf
  • Leon
  • Taylor
  • Wakulla
  • Calhoun
  • Liberty
  • Jackson
  • Gadsden
  • Holmes
  • Washington

Governor Scott’s request for Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) has been approved for Bay County, meaning that FEMA will be providing more options for places for families to stay, including hotel rooms. Following Governor Scott’s request, FEMA has approved enhanced flexibility for TSA in Bay County that will open availability for families in this program to stay in condos and other rentals. For more information and to apply for FEMA’s TSA program, visit www.DisasterAssistance.gov.

STATE PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS 

FOOD AND WATER

  • The state is working to ensure adequate food resources are available for Florida residents impacted by Hurricane Michael, prioritizing based upon need. Specific activities include the following:
    • Law enforcement escorts have been arranged to expedite food and water resources.
    • Food and water commodities are being airdropped into the hardest hit counties.
    • Approximately 3 million meals ready to eat are being distributed.
    • Approximately 2 million gallons of water are being distributed.
    • Approximately 3 million pounds of ice are being distributed.
    • Emergency Supply Distribution Centers, or Points of Distribution (POD), are places where the public can pick up emergency supplies following a disaster. These sites have food, water, or other critical supplies. Click HERE for a complete map of POD locations. 

FUEL

  • There are no reported widespread fuel shortages.
  • Florida SERT made first responder fueling depots available to utility crews across the Panhandle. This helps ensure that utility restoration trucks have the fuel they need so they can restore power faster.
  • Approximately 700,000 gallons of fuel is staged to be distributed at fueling stations to support restoration efforts in the impacted areas.
  • There are currently 96 fueling trucks being used to distribute fuel.

COMMUNICATIONS

  • Governor Scott laid out his expectations for telecommunications companies that are experiencing prolonged service outages in the areas impacted by Hurricane Michael.See the Governor’s press release HERE which states the following expectations of Governor Scott:
    • Any Floridian in the impacted counties should be allowed to switch providers without penalty;
    • Bills for Floridians in impacted counties that have been without service should be waived for the month of October; and
    • Telecommunications companies should be open and transparent with Floridians and do so with a clearly communicated plan to quickly restore service.
  • More than 2,000 personnel are working to restore cell service and communications in the impacted areas.
  • Comcast has sent the Xfinity “WiFi on Wheels” or “WoW” van to provide free wireless internet service so residents and emergency personnel can stay connected.
    • The vehicle is set up at the Lynn Haven Walmart Supercenter at 2101 State Road 77, Lynn Haven, FL 32444. The customized van is outfitted with six WiFi access points, which can provide wireless internet connectivity to approximately 3,000 users over a 500 square foot area.
  • Comcast announced today that it is suspending billing from Oct. 10 forward, suspending late and missing payment fees, as well as missing equipment fees, and replacing damaged and missing equipment for free.
    • Comcast will also be providing account credit for Xfinity Mobile customers with outstanding balances for next three months. More information is available at:https://florida.comcast.com
  • Communications support packages have been dispatched through the Commercial Service Providers and Florida National Guard to Holmes, Liberty, Jackson, Gadsden. Calhoun, Gulf, Franklin, and Washington counties.
  • At the direction of Governor Scott, Florida Highway Patrol escorted cellular service provider crews to the affected areas. See the video HERE.

POWER RESTORATION

  • Prior to Hurricane Michael’s impact, Governor Scott called on every local government to immediately confirm their mutual aid agreements between investor-owned utilities, municipals and co-ops are in place and effective so there is no delay in power restoration for Floridians. These agreements allow municipal utilities to receive aid from investor-owned utilities and co-ops as they work to restore power to customers. Without these agreements in place ahead of time, power restoration will be delayed. To view the full list of Florida utilities with agreements in place, click HERE.
  • Florida SERT made first responder fueling depots available to utility crews across the Panhandle. This helps ensure that utility restoration trucks have the fuel they need so they can restore power faster.  
  • Following Governor Scott’s offer to each utility in Florida additional push crews to augment the ability of power restoration workers, five utilities have drawn down push crews. Push crews will go in advance of utility crews and clear their paths so the utilities can focus solely on getting power restored. There are currently 21 push crews working in impacted areas.
  • Governor Scott directed the Florida Department of Transportation to organize, lead and mobilize push crews to expedite power restoration.
  • Generators have been mobilized to impacted counties to bring traffic lights online, which will alleviate the need for law enforcement to direct traffic.
  • Governor Scott also requested assistance from Manny Miranda, Florida Power and Light’s Senior Vice President of Power Delivery, to advise and assist the state’s power restoration efforts. Manny will be traveling to Tallahassee where he will serve as a liaison between the state and FEMA to help provide technical support and assistance.
  • The current power outage as of 12 p.m. is 113,726.

SHELTERS

MILITARY SUPPORT

  • At Governor Scott's direction, the Florida National Guard has authorized the activation of up to 4,000 Soldiers and Airmen to assist with response efforts.
  • Governor Scott visited Tyndall AFB today to aid and assist in their recovery.
  • The Florida National Guard currently has a total of 3,415 Soldiers and Airmen on orders, along with 67 counterparts from Title 10 and other National Guard states. Joint Task Force-Florida (JTF-FL) has been tasked with a total of 306 missions to date, and is currently executing 58 missions in support of Florida Division of Emergency Management Hurricane Michael relief efforts.
  • To date, JTF-FL has cleared approximately 500 miles of road and flown 37 total missions for a total of nearly 200 total flight hours. Additionally, they have facilitated the distribution of more than 4.6 million liters of water, more than 823,000 units of food, more than 20,000 tarps and nearly 12,000 cots.
  • In the past 24 hours, elements of Joint Task Force-Florida have supported approximately six missions including (but not limited to):
    • Supporting nine security missions in support of local law enforcement agencies in Bay and Calhoun counties
    • Staffing nine county Emergency Operations Centers
    • Providing communications support packages to six counties (Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gulf, Jackson and Washington)
    • Supporting 25 Points of Distribution (PODs) throughout seven counties (Bay, Calhoun, Gadsden, Gulf, Jackson, Wakulla and Washington)
    • Aviation flew one mission
    • Operating at the State Logistics Readiness Center in Orlando and two Logistics Staging Areas in Tallahassee and Marianna to ensure that supplies quickly get to those who need them
    • Staffing a total of seven shelter missions in Bay, Gulf and Calhoun counties
    • Delivering approximately 300 pallets of food, 333 pallets of water, 3,000 tarps and 2,200 cots

LAW ENFORCEMENT

  • More than 1,830 law enforcement officers have been deployed to impacted areas in the Panhandle and Big Bend. These officers have completed 200 missions.
  • A third wave of approximately 150 officers and ten support staff, with appropriate equipment assets, are continuing to transition into the panhandle area over the next two days to relieve current force of deployed officers and staff assisting with Hurricane Michael recovery efforts.
  • FWC officers will continue performing search and rescue, welfare checks, reconnaissance, public safety missions and assisting with debris removal. They are providing aid to areas of greatest need in Carrabelle, Mexico Beach, Panama City, Marianna, Blountstown, Port St. Joe, Alligator Point and other areas that were severely affected by Hurricane Michael.
  • FWC response teams have transitioned to 12-hour Alpha/Bravo shifts to provide 24-hour coverage in the affected areas.
  • Recent activities have included locating missing persons, enforcing curfews, distributing humanitarian aid to residents, clearing debris from roadways and houses, assisting with medical calls, law enforcement patrols, escorting supply trucks and assisting local police departments and sheriff’s offices with general law enforcement duties.
  • FWC Aviation is consistently providing reconnaissance information to state emergency management as well as providing air assistance to search and rescue teams on the ground.
  • 15 members of FWC’s Special Operations Group continue working with the National Guard and Florida Fire Service USAR teams to create highly specialized urban search and rescue units.
  • FWC continues to assist with the command posts set up in Marianna, Carrabelle and Blountstown. 
  • The Florida Highway Patrol has activated 12-hour shifts for field troops throughout Florida’s Panhandle and Big Bend. This activation will result in regular days off being cancelled and 24-hour enhanced coverage.
  • The Florida Highway Patrol has 632 state troopers assigned to the Panhandle and Big Bend area of Florida to assist with response and recovery. The Florida Highway Patrolhas assisted with emergency management missions all across the Panhandle including the cities of Callaway, Lynn Haven, Panama City, Wewahitchka, Mexico Beach, Port St. Joe, Cape San Blas, Indian Pass, Apalachicola, St. George Island, St. Teresa, Carrabelle, Alligator Point, Marianna, Bristol, Altha, Blountstown, Tallahassee, Perry, Panacea, Crawfordville, Shell Point, Hosford, Quincy, Gretna, Chattahoochee, and Midway.
  • The Florida Highway Patrol has completed 114 missions and has 34 active missions.
    • The Florida Highway Patrol is providing security escorts to utility crews and the Florida National Guard route clearance teams.
    • The Florida Highway Patrol is providing security escorts to essential commodity convoys into Bay County.
    • The Florida Highway Patrol has three chainsaw strike teams multiple MRAPs (high clearance recovery vehicles) throughout the affected areas clearing roadways and deploying to perform search and rescue missions, clear roadways and free driveways of large trees in impacted areas.
    • The Florida Highway Patrol is supplementing local law enforcement agency efforts with increased patrol of damaged areas.
    • The Florida Highway Patrol is providing traffic control and security at points of deliveries (PODs) for essential commodities.
    • The Florida Highway Patrol sent eight troopers to Mexico Beach and distributed ice and water to the residents and workers.
    • The Florida Highway Patrol is assigning 40 state troopers to work with the Panama City Police Department to assist with Law Enforcement Operations on both the am and pm shift. 
  • The Florida Highway Patrol currently has 24/7 representation within the State Emergency Operations Center coordinating preparation, response and recovery efforts. The Florida Hi7ghway Patrol is also staffing numerous County Emergency Operations Centers.
  • The Florida Highway Patrol will maintain high visibility on Interstate-10 and other roadways to assist motorists, clear roadways and will routinely check rest areas to assist residents and visitors.
  • The Florida Highway Patrol has deployed an aircraft with live streaming capabilities to assess response and recovery needs.
  • The Florida Highway Patrol has deployed two small unmanned aerial vehicles with livestreaming capabilities to assess road and bridge response and recovery needs, as well as search and rescue missions.
  • Three DHSMV Florida Licensing on Wheels (FLOW) mobiles are at the Sam’s Club in Panama City starting today to provide credentialing services to customers. The FLOW mobile hours are 9am to 5pm CDT.
  • One DHSMV Florida Licensing on Wheels (FLOW) mobile is at the Apalachicola City Complex to provide credentialing services to customers starting today. The FLOW mobile hours are 9am to 4pm EDT.
  • One DHSMV Florida Licensing on Wheels (FLOW) mobile is at the Liberty County Courthouse to provide credentialing services to customers. The FLOW mobile hours are 9am to 4pm EDT.
  • DHSMV’s Florida Licensing on Wheels (FLOW) mobiles are finalizing logistics to deploy a unit to Gulf County to assist customers impacted by the storm. Locations and hours of operation will be released as soon as they are available.
  • Since Tuesday, October 16, DHSMV FLOW mobiles have served more than 300 customers seeking driver license, ID or motor vehicle services.
  • FDLE's Mutual Aid Team is coordinating 484 law enforcement missions assisting local agencies after the storm with search and rescue, patrols and traffic enforcement.
  • FDLE and other state law enforcement partners are working at the state EOC and in Pensacola and Tallahassee regions.
  • 12 FDLE deployment teams are assisting local law enforcement in Bay, Gulf, Liberty, Washington, Calhoun and Jackson Counties.  These teams are working missions like patrol and welfare checks.
  • Regional FDLE Law Enforcement Coordination teams (RLECT) are coordinating with urban search and rescue teams to get into impacted areas.
  • The State Law Enforcement Radio System is now fully operational and mobile towers are no longer needed. FDLE continues to coordinate with the radio vendor and local agencies to restore local law enforcement radio systems.  Mobile or temporary towers are working where permanent towers are not yet operational. 
  • 24 members of the Bureau of Law Enforcement in the Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s (DBPR) Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco are actively supporting emergency response missions to provide supplemental security services as directed by the State Emergency Response Team in impacted counties.
  • The Department of Management Services (DMS) opened a 1,000-person base camp at the Tallahassee Regional Airport for utility workers and first responders today. The department’s telecommunications providers will be supporting base camps throughout the impacted region.

SAFETY AND SECURITY

  • There are more than 1,300 search and rescue personnel deploying to the impacted areas. Including:

·        Six water tender strike teams, fire engine water tankers; 

·        Three Ambulance Strike Teams;

·        10 EOC fire liaisons to support EOC’s impacted areas;

·        Two Urban Search and Rescue teams

·        11 fire engine strike teams with 60 fire engines and more than 250 firefighters;

·        A Florida Fire Forest Service Incident Management Gold Team;

·        Two TERT (Dispatchers) teams; 

·        One EVT (Vehicle Maintenance) team with three people;

·        More than 300 ambulances with more than 600 staff

TRANSPORTATION & PUBLIC WORKS

  • The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is coordinating with utility companies and search and rescue companies to prioritize cut/toss debris clearance routes.
  • 45 Emergency Road Access teams were deployed to ensure access to critical coastal communities
  • Portable generators were distributed to provide standby power to critical roadway intersections
  • Inspection teams were deployed to review roads and bridges to ensure safety for travel, particularly along US 98. All bridges have been inspected.
  • Governor Scott directed FDOT to suspend tolls effective immediately in the Northwest Florida region. Tolls are suspended at the following facilities: Mid-Bay Bridge and Spence Parkway (Okaloosa County), Garcon Point Bridge (Santa Rosa County), Bob Sikes Toll Bridge (Escambia County), and Orchard Pond Parkway (Leon County).
  • FDOT has suspended all construction operations from the roadways in the counties under the state of emergency.
  • FDOT is coordinating with the Florida Highway Patrol to reopen bridges and roadways when clear and safe to travel.
  • FDOT issued an Emergency Road Use Permit letter to relieve size and weight restrictions for vehicles responding to Hurricane Michael.
  • FDOT issued Weigh Station Bypass letter to allow emergency response vehicles such as utility vehicles and bucket trucks to bypass all FDOT weigh stations.
  • FDOT is coordinating with Florida’s seaports and airports on the status of their operations.
  • FDOT is coordinating with utility companies to coordinate post storm clean-up activities.
  • FDOT is coordinating with the Florida Highway Patrol on bridge and roadway closures and detours.
  • FDOT crews, in coordination with law enforcement, continue to inspect and assess state bridges and roadways.
  • FL 511 includes a listing of closed state roadways and bridges at fl511.com. This listing continues to be updated as additional state roads are inspected, opened, or closed and includes updated detour routes.
  • U.S. 98 is closed to traffic from the Dupont Bridge in Bay County to SR 71 in Gulf County for road inspection and emergency repairs except for first responders and power/rescue efforts. U.S. 98 from Carrabelle to SR 71 is now open.

PUBLIC HEALTH AND MEDICAL

  • Governor Scott requested the activation of the federal Emergency Prescription Assistance Program, administered jointly by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to help families without health insurance impacted by Hurricane Michael receive prescription medications. See the press release HERE.
  • Florida continues to communicate and monitor pharmacies in the affected areas and work to restore services with as little disruption to citizens as possible. Currently there are 52 pharmacy locations open and dispensing medication in the following counties: Bay, Calhoun, Gadsden, Gulf, Franklin, Jackson, Liberty, Okaloosa, Wakulla, Walton, and Washington.
    • To find an open pharmacy, go to RxOpen.org, which maps open and closed pharmacies during disasters. The site also has locations of American Red Cross shelters and infusion centers in the affected communities.
    • For those with a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, medicare.gov recommends contacting the plan to find the nearest network pharmacy that is open. If one is unavailable, the plan can connect evacuees with an out-of-network pharmacy. Call your plan for more details and instructions. To find your plan’s phone number, call 800-MEDICARE.
  • The Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) is in contact with healthcare facilities to ensure they have the resources they need.  
  • At the direction of Governor Scott, AHCA Secretary Justin Senior sent a letter to Florida Healthy Kids requesting a waiver of premiums for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and full pay enrollees premiums for the months of November, December and January. See the letter HERE. The Florida Healthy Kids Board voted today to waive the monthly premiums for November, December and January. This step assists the families of 5,604 enrolled children living in the impacted areas.
  • Facilities report their evacuation status to the Agency through the Emergency Status System. An updated evacuation report can be found on the AHCA twitter page: https://twitter.com/AHCA_FL
  • AHCA has activated the Emergency Status System (ESS) for health care facilities in the panhandle to continue to report their ongoing status including generators and utility company information, emergency contacts, and bed availability.
  • All nursing homes and assisted living facilities are required to keep residents in a safe environment in an emergency to ensure the protection of resident health, safety, welfare, and comfort. 
    • Facilities are required to have a Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan approved and on file with the local emergency management agencies.
    • Nursing facilities all have back-up power that can power medical equipment and refrigeration for medicine and food. 
    • Additionally, facilities are required to have an emergency power plan in place to ensure that resident occupied area temperatures do not exceed 81 degrees. These plans include onsite generators, delivered generators, or shifting populations to locations that can maintain comfortable temperatures.
    • As part of licensure, facilities are responsible for the health and safety of their patients.
    • The State is here to serve as a resource to connect facilities to the local emergency management officials to make sure needs are being met.
  • The Department of Elder Affairs (DOEA) continues communication with directors and emergency coordinators at the affected Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) and is working with our partners to resolve unmet need as they are identified.
  • DOEA has deployed staff from their Pensacola and Tallahassee CARES Bureau offices to assist at Special Needs Shelters both in Tallahassee and other storm-affected counties. Most CARES staff are RNs, and they are helping with special needs and discharge planning of seniors and others at the Special Needs Shelters.
  • DOEA’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program has been working to check on the welfare of all residents of long-term care facilities in the affected region and offer any needed assistance. Many were evacuated in advance of the storm.
  • DOEA is also prepping for the Disaster Recover Center Staffing needs and stand ready to deploy and assist.
  • US HHS declared a public health emergency in Florida following the storm, which will allow more people to continue to get treatment under Medicaid and Medicare.
  • DOEA will be working with CMS on a request to extend Medicare’s Open Enrollment period, which began Monday, October 15, for those affected by Hurricane Michael. Open Enrollment is the one time a year that Medicare beneficiaries (more than four million in Florida) can make necessary changes in coverage to their Medicare and prescription drug plans.
  • DOEA coordinated with the State Emergency Operations Center to get generators to Bay County to a senior center where more than 200 seniors are provided meals on a regular basis. The generator was delivered and is helping to power the ovens, freezer, and commercial refrigerators. DOEA is working to provide additional shelf stable meals and water to them as well.
  • The Florida Department of Health (DOH) is actively communicating with ESF-8 leadership in the counties within the area of operations and supporting county health department (CHD) operations.
  • AHCA in coordination with DOH is in contact with hospitals and other health care facilities within the area of operations to determine operational status and resource needs.
  • DOH is monitoring and supporting Special Needs Shelter operations through census reporting and resource support as requested by local emergency operations. 175 nurses and non-clinical support staff have been deployed to augment local special needs shelter staff. Special Needs Shelter populations are decreasing slightly in the affected areas due to a return to normal operations. Special Needs Shelters remain open in the following counties: Washington, Jackson, Bay and Pasco (Pasco is a state consolidated Special Need Shelter).
  • 367 ambulances and two multi-patient ambu-buses and 125 paratransit vehicles are in the area of operations to assist with rescue operations, health care facility evaluations, local EMS augmentation and patient movement.
  • A hospital augmentation team from the International Medical Corp has been activated including 50 nurses, two hospital emergency department teams and one hospital augmentation team is supporting one area hospital. Four Disaster Medical Assistance Teams are supporting four area hospitals. Hospital locations include: Panama city (Bay County), Blountstown (Bay County), and Fort Walton Beach (Okaloosa County).
  • DOH has catalogued inventory of vaccines related to diseases that could be of concern after flooding events or for mass sheltering.
  • There are currently 37 Active Boil Water Notices: Bay (2), Calhoun (1), Franklin (6), Gadsden (4), Gulf (2), Hillsborough (1), Jackson (5), Leon (12), Levy (1), Liberty (1) and Washington (2). To view boil water notices in your area, please visithttp://www.floridahealth.gov/environmental-health/drinking-water/boil-water-notices.html
  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced steps taken to support Florida in response to Hurricane Michael, including:
    • Temporarily waiving or modifying certain Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP requirements,
    • Making special enrollment periods available for certain individuals seeking health plans offered through the Florida Health Insurance Exchange,
    • Helping patients obtain access to life-saving services such as dialysis.
  • The Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) is in constant contact with partners, waiver support coordinators, and providers which are continuing to check on APD customers impacted by Hurricane Michael.  
  • APD and community partners are addressing needs at Sunland Center in Marianna. Tacachale in Gainesville continues to provide staff and supplies to help residents be comfortable. Florida Public Utilities has restored power to a section of the Sunland campus.
  • APD’s William J. Rish Recreational Park in Gulf County remains closed.
  • Residents and staff at the Clifford C. Sims State Veterans’ Nursing Home in Panama City are doing well and continuing to receive medical care. Residents and staff are receiving three hots meals per day. A rotation of FDVA Health Care Professionals is continuing. Four pallets of bottled water were delivered on Oct. 17. The facility is awaiting main utility power restoration from Gulf Power (ETA Oct. 24). All utilities and services are operational thanks to three onsite portable generators. Daily Diesel Fuel deliveries are continuing. Cell phone connectivity is intermittent. Mail delivery resumed Oct. 17.
  • Families of residents wanting to visit the veterans’ home are asked to delay their arrival in the impacted zone until Friday, Oct. 19.
  • The veterans’ home is not accepting new admissions at this time. For more information, call (850) 487-1533.
  • VA Outpatient Clinics in Panama City Beach and Marianna, which had been closed due to the hurricane, are open with limited but expanding service to area veterans. County veteran service offices in many of the impacted counties remain closed. Contact information for each county office can be found online athttp://floridavets.org/locations/ 
  • DCF has ordered an early release of food assistance benefits for those Florida residents in the 35 counties included in Governor Scott’s pre-landfall emergency order who would have received normal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits between now and October 28th.
    • DCF also waived restrictions on purchasing hot prepared food with SNAP benefits through October 31 statewide to assist customers who evacuated to another area or suffered storm damage to their home.
  • DCF is providing additional SNAP benefits for customers in Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Wakulla and Washington counties. These benefits are now in the customer’s accounts and accessible on their EBT cards. For more information, click HERE.
  • A team from FEMA including experts from Homeland Security, the EPA, the Department of Defense, Health and Human Services, and the Army Corps of Engineers is now in Florida and providing federal assistance.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION

  • The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has conducted post-storm assessments on high priority facilities. Two emergency final orders have been issued to ensure recovery efforts are not hampered or delayed.
  • At DEP’s request, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has waived certain federal requirements related to fuel use and distribution so Florida’s recovery efforts are not hampered by supply disruptions.
  • DEP has activated and continues to closely monitoring StormTracker, a reporting tool for water and waste water facilities to provide updates on their operational status.
  • DEP has completed 47 requests and is assisting with 35 additional requests for assistance submitted through Florida's Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network (FlaWARN) in Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Leon, Liberty, Wakulla and Washington counties, and has made outreach calls to 2,997 facilities to assess needs.
  • In collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a mobile sampling lab has been deployed to Bay County to fulfill water sampling needs.
  • Beach Surveys have been completed in Bay, Gulf, Escambia, Franklin, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton counties.
  • Drinking water and wastewater crews completed on site spot assessments and are conducting field work in the impacted areas.
  • DEP is working closely with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to coordinate disaster debris management.
  • The U.S. Coast Guard, in collaboration with EPA, has completed fly overs to assess coastal areas. 
  • An online tool for the public to report the location of storm debris in waterways has been deployed; and 470 reports of debris have been received.
  • 235 Disaster Debris Management Sites have been pre-authorized for the counties addressed by the Governor’s Executive Order, with an additional 74 emergency sites approved in impacted areas.
  • Florida State Parks strike teams are on site to clear debris and assist individuals in impacted state parks. 58 state parks have re-opened. Current Florida State Park closures can be found at https://www.floridastateparks.org/StormUpdates.
  • DEP’s Florida Park Service has opened areas to dry camp for self-contained rigs – usually parking lots without utility connections - at some state parks for evacuees on a first come, first served basis with waived overnight fees. A list of open parks and contact information to check for availability can be found at https://www.floridastateparks.org/get-involved/storm-assistance.

BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY    

  • The Florida SBDC Network and the U.S. Small Business Administration have opened Business Recovery Centers (BRCs) to assist small businesses impacted by Hurricane Michael. Small businesses can get assistance applying for state and federal business disaster loans. BRCs are now open: Bay County (CareerSource Bay County City Job Center 625 Highway 231, Panama City, FL 32405. Monday - Saturday 9 am to 6 pm);Franklin County (Franklin County Public Library 311 St. James Ave. Carrabelle, FL 32322. Monday - Friday 9 am to 6 pm. Saturdays from 10 am to 2 pm); Taylor County(Super-Pufft Snacks 700 W Lance Drive Perry, FL 32348. Monday - Saturday 9 am to 6 pm); Wakulla County (Wakulla County Community Center 322 Shadeville Highway Crawfordville, Florida 32327. Monday - Saturday 9 am - 6 pm)
  • The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) is working with the Capital Area Action Agency to allow them to repurpose some of the FEMA surplus trailers that are not currently needed for Eastpoint residents as a temporary housing solution for Franklin County residents who have been impacted by Hurricane Michael.
  • DEO has begun to pull zoning maps for the impacted areas to assist in identifying temporary housing solutions.
  • Governor Rick Scott announced that Florida has been awarded federal National Dislocated Worker Grants to provide temporary employment to Floridians affected by Hurricane Michael. This program is administered by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) and provides disaster relief employment in the form of temporary jobs that support storm response and recovery efforts. See the Governor’s press release HERE.
  • Executive Director Cissy Proctor and members of the DEO Leadership Team will be meeting with area businesses and CareerSource in Bay, Gulf, Franklin and Wakulla counties this week.
  • The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity is working with CareerSource North Florida and CareerSource Northeast Florida to send mobile units, along with staff and resources, including water, gas, generators, flashlights and satellite phones to allow CareerSource partners in the panhandle to begin assisting jobseekers and businesses as a part of the recovery efforts.
  • The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity has made the Disaster Reemployment Assistance program available for Florida businesses and residents whose employment or self-employment was lost or interrupted as a result of Hurricane Michael. To file a DUA claim go to www.FloridaJobs.org or call 1-800-385-3920. Customer service representatives are available Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time to assist claimants. 
  • DEO has launched the Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program to provide short-term, interest-free loans to affects businesses at www.floridadisasterloan.org.
  • Disaster cleanup and other related job openings are now available at http://disasterrecovery.employflorida.com for businesses to post job openings and for individuals to find job opportunities.
  • DEO has opened the Business Damage Assessment Survey for businesses impacted by Hurricane Michael. Businesses with damage should complete the survey at https://www.floridadisaster.biz/BusinessDamageAssessments
  • Businesses can also visit FloridaDisaster.biz to view tips for assessing storm damage and to register to receive updates on storm recovery.
  • To help residents and emergency personnel stay connected following the storm, Comcast is opening its network of more than 8,000 Xfinity WiFi hotspots throughout the Florida Panhandle, including Tallahassee, Panama City, Panama City Beach and surrounding areas and the Dothan, Alabama area, to anyone to use for free, including non-Xfinity customers.
  • The state has opened the Private Sector Hotline at (850) 815-4925. The hotline is available for business inquiries about the storm, preparedness information and post-impact information.
  • VISIT FLORIDA has activated the Expedia/VISIT FLORIDA Hotel Accommodation Web Portal to support evacuation orders. Visit www.expedia.com/florida to find available hotel rooms.
  • VISIT FLORIDA President and CEO Ken Lawson was in the field with Governor Rick Scott to assess damage and meet with local partners in Mexico Beach and several other cities in Bay, Gulf and Jackson counties.
  • The US 231 Official Florida Welcome Center is now open and operational. Power has been restored to the facility. Staff is back assisting travelers in need of emergency and vacation information.
  • VISIT FLORIDA continues to share disaster recovery information with tourism industry businesses.
  • Airbnb Open Homes is now active in Alabama, Florida and Georgia in response to Hurricane Michael. Visit www.airbnb.com/HurricaneMichael for open homes.
  • The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association provided thousands of meals to first responders, volunteers and residents in Calhoun, Gadsden, Leon, Liberty and Jackson counties, and well as clean linens to a shelter in Panama City.
  • The Florida Retail Federation and the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association continue to share disaster recovery information with their business affiliates.
  • Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) offers a Hurricane Guide with information about recovery, and helpful hurricane-related resources. DBPR has shared the Guide on social media and it is available athttp://www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr/documents/HurricaneGuide_web.pdf
  • DBPR Division of Regulation investigators continue to perform preliminary damage assessments. In addition, investigators are posting signs warning those in impacted areas that unlicensed construction contracting is a felony during a declared state of emergency.
  • DBPR Division of Hotels and Restaurants inspectors have conducted 53 disaster inspections in Citrus, Dixie and Levy Counties. The Division continues to monitor recovery conditions in other impacted Panhandle communities to determine when inspection teams may be deployed for disaster inspections at reopening licensed locations.
  • The DBPR Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, pursuant to the Emergency Order of the Secretary (10.09.2018), has suspended deadlines through October 31, 2018 for filing monthly reports and returns required of licenses subject to monthly reporting requirements in Florida’s beverage and tobacco laws. The Division is assisting impacted alcoholic beverage manufacturers and distributors with procedures for claiming an excise tax deduction relating to the extraordinary loss of product inventory at licensed premises severely impacted by Hurricane Michael.

EDUCATION

  • The Florida Department of Education (FDOE) is focused on restoring critical education-related infrastructure, monitoring for unmet needs and assisting districts and state colleges in securing necessary supplies.
  • The Department and Florida Association of District School Superintendents are working together to coordinate district-to-district resource assistance.
  • FDOE issued a memo to superintendents in impacted areas to provide additional flexibility related to student reporting. The memo is posted online HERE.
  • Agency leaders from the Divisions of K-12 Public Schools and Colleges are traveling to impacted areas to meet with district and college staff. While there, they are receiving updates on damage, documenting assistance needed to reopen as quickly and offering encouragement.
  • Many schools in impacted areas, as well as Chipola College and Gulf Coast State College, are without power. FDOE is coordinating with the associated power companies to ensure power is restored to these essential buildings as quickly as safely possible.
  • FDOE is identifying vendors available to provide assistance and connecting them with impacted school districts and state colleges. 
  • The following school districts have announced closures:
    • Bay will be closed until further notice.
    • Calhoun will be closed until further notice.
    • Franklin will reopen Monday, October 22, for staff and Tuesday, October 23, for students.
    • Gadsden will reopen Monday, October 22. 
    • Gulf will reopen Friday, October 19, for staff and Tuesday, October 23, for students.
    • Holmes will reopen Thursday, October 18, for staff and Monday, October 22, for students.
    • Jackson will be closed until further notice.
    • Liberty plans to reopen Wednesday, October 24, for staff and Monday, October 29 for students.
    • Washington will reopen Tuesday, October 23, for teachers and Wednesday, October 24, for students.
  • The following state colleges and universities have announced closures:
    • Chipola College will be closed through Friday (10/19).
    • Florida State University’s Panama City Campus will be closed until further notice.
    • Gulf Coast State College will be closed until further notice.
  • The Division of Blind Services (DBS) and Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) offices listed below are closed until further notice. In the meantime, DBS clients are being directed to the Pensacola office (600 University Office Boulevard), and VR staff has provided clients in impacted areas alternative contact information to receive services. 
    • Bay (DVR & DBS): 2505 West 15th Street, Panama City
    • Gadsden (DVR): 305 West Crawford Street, Quincy
    • Jackson (DVR): 4743B Highway 90 East, Marianna
  • Many district schools are still operating shelters; for a list of Florida shelters, visithttps://www.floridadisaster.org/planprepare/shelters/.
  • FDOE will be posting up-to-date information regarding closures and meeting cancellations at www.fldoe.org/hurricaneinfo.  

INSURANCE AND FINANCIAL SERVICES

  • At the direction of Governor Scott, Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier issued an Emergency Order suspending and activating certain insurance rules and statutes for the health, safety, and welfare of Florida's policyholders. Among other provisions, the Order provides:

o   An additional 90 days to policyholders to supply information to their insurance company

o   Prohibits insurance companies from canceling or non-renewing policies covering residential properties damaged by the hurricane for at least 90 days

o   Freezes efforts to increase rates on policyholders for 90 days. A copy of the Order can be found here.

  • OIR has ordered property insurers to submit claims information from Hurricane Michael on a daily basis until Friday, October 26. Additional data calls will be scheduled.
  • Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier and CFO Jimmy Patronis conducted a conference call with representatives of various insurance companies that have policies in force within the regions forecasted to be impacted by Hurricane Michael to ensure those companies:

o   Have resources positioned and available to respond to consumers’ needs

o   Assess damage and pay claims quickly

o   Report any challenges or issues as quickly as possible

o   Report claims to the OIR on time and in accordance with the reporting schedule that will be issued later today

  • OIR’s Incident Management Team remains fully activated. OIR team members will be actively working throughout the recovery phase with consumer advocates, industry stakeholders and entities licensed under OIR’s regulatory authority.
  • In accordance with the Governor’s Executive Order 18-276 and 18-277, OIR has

o   Notified all health insurers, managed care organizations and other health entities of their statutory obligation to allow for early prescription refills during a state of emergency.

  • Health Insurers
  • AHCA
  • DOH
  • FL Pharmacy Assoc.
  • The Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Consumer Services has resources for consumers seeking assistance with the claims-filing process or to file insurance complaints HERE.
  • Following Hurricane Michael’s devastation to the Florida panhandle, Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis will deploy emergency insurance villages in Panama City and Tallahassee to assist residents with the insurance claims process. Details for both locations can be found below:
    • Panama City
      • Where: Regal Cinemas parking lot located at 1515 W 23rd St, Panama City, FL 32405.
      • When: Tuesday, October 16 to Friday, October 19 (WILL BE ADJUSTED AS NEEDED) 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CDT
    • Tallahassee
      • Where: Heritage Plaza 2810 Sharer Road Tallahassee, FL 32312
      • When: Thursday, October 18 and Friday, October 19 (WILL BE ADJUSTED AS NEEDED) 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., EST
  • For information on financial services providers, see below:
    • For a list of Florida’s state-chartered financial institutions and their websites, click HERE.
    • Find your bank’s contact information, click HERE.
    • Find your credit union’s contact information, click HERE.
    • Find your mortgage servicer’s contact information, click HERE.
    • If you don’t have your mortgage servicer’s information with you, you can search the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS) or call toll-free at (888) 679-6377 to find the company that services your mortgage.
    • Visit the Florida Office of Financial Regulation’s Hurricane Michael resourcesHERE.

STATE OFFICE CLOSURES

  • DMS will stay in contact with all state offices and has asked them to report closures in WebEOC.
  • Open Enrollment began Monday at 8 a.m. ET as scheduled. State employees can log in at that time to People First to begin making benefit choices.
  • E4Health, the employee assistance program for state employees, is providing counseling support for critical incidents in the impacted area. For critical incident responses or formal referrals, call the E4 Management Resource Consultation team at 877-267-1585.
  • Aetna, one of the providers for the State Group Insurance Program, is providing teledoc services in Bay, Gulf, Jackson, and Washington counties for non-emergency issues. The service is free to state group Insurance members and dependents.  The phone number to access this service is 855-764-1727, or visit teladoc.com/Michael.

VOLUNTEER EFFORTS

  • Volunteer Florida is continuing to work with more than 8,640 registered volunteers to connect them with volunteer opportunities.
  • Volunteer Florida’s 38 Florida Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD) partners are still engaged in response and recovery activities.
  • Tarps from FEMA have been sent to logistical staging areas (LSAs) throughout the Florida Panhandle, and Volunteer Florida is coordinating with Florida VOAD partners to pick them up and help with tarping. So far, Florida Baptist Disaster Relief, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Mennonite Disaster Services, Hearts and Hands Disaster Recovery, Team Rubicon and Goodwill have helped install thousands of tarps.  
  • A Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) is in Leon County helping with volunteer basecamp operations assisting with logistics at the State Emergency Operations Center. Two other CERT team are beginning preliminary damage assessments (PDAs) in Gadsden County. The remaining CERT teams throughout the state are on standby, prepared to mobilize upon Volunteer Florida’s direction.
  • Volunteer Florida is coordinating a 100-person team of AmeriCorps members that will arrive in Tallahassee today to be briefed before deploying to affected areas throughout the Panhandle.
  • Volunteer Florida’s partner, Crisis Cleanup, is coordinating voluntary organizations to respond to requests submitted by individuals, as not to duplicate efforts. So far, these organizations have responded to more than 4,700 requests. To submit a request, individuals can call (800) 451-1954.
  • Volunteer Florida is coordinating with volunteers in affected areas to begin passing out informational cards with instructions for registering as a volunteer, submitting Crisis Cleanup requests and signing up for FEMA assistance.
  • Volunteer Florida is working with corporate donors to help establish comfort centers at nine shelters throughout the Florida Panhandle. This will include bringing games and other activities to the shelters to entertain children and help them feel safe during the displacement period. 
  • The DMS Division of Real Estate Development and Management secured a lease for a 100,000-square foot warehouse in Tallahassee for Volunteer Florida to use as a distribution site for hurricane relief items.
  • At Governor Scott’s direction, Volunteer Florida has activated the Florida Disaster Fund, the State of Florida’s official private fund established to assist Florida’s communities as they respond to and recover during times of emergency or disaster. In partnership with the public sector, private sector and other non-governmental organizations, the Florida Disaster Fund supports response and recovery activities. To donate, visit, www.FloridaDisasterFund.org or text “DISASTER” to 20222 to make a one-time donation of $10.
  • The Salvation Army is working with state and local emergency management throughout the Florida Panhandle. Meal numbers have increased as residents are returning to the area to begin cleanup of their homes.
  • The Salvation Army has established Incident Commands in Panama City, Apalachicola, and Tallahassee. The Salvation Army has committed 26 mobile feeding units to the Panama City Incident Command (serving Bay, Holmes, and Washington Counites), 9 mobile feeding units to the Apalachicola Incident Command (serving Calhoun, Franklin, Gulf, and Liberty Counties), and 11 mobile feeding units to the Tallahassee Incident Command (serving Gadsden, Jackson, Leon, and Wakulla Counties). Each unit can serve 500-1,500 meals per day.
  • The Salvation Army is partnering with Operation BBQ Relief to provide meals for distribution through mobile feeding units, Therapy Dogs International to support emotional and spiritual care efforts, and Midwest Food Bank to provide food boxes and hygiene kits.
  • The Salvation Army has deployed three Personnel Support Units (one bunkhouse and two travel trailers) to Panama City, as well as a shower trailer to Tallahassee to support staff and volunteers that are providing services. 
  • As of October 17, The Salvation Army has provided 159,801 meals, 105,013 drinks, 99,184 snacks, and 13,699 hours of service. 
  • As of October 17, The Salvation Army has committed more than $1,319,000 in resources to Hurricane Michael relief efforts.
  • Red Cross has 975 disaster relief workers in the affected counties with an additional 166 on the way.

STATE EMERGENCY OPERATION CENTER/ CONTACTS

  • The State Emergency Operations Center remains activated at a level one, which is a full-scale, 24-hours-a-day activation.
  • The State Assistance Information Line (SAIL) contact number is 1-800-342-3557.
  • The State Emergency Operations Center Media Line: 850-921-0217.
  • Follow @FLSert or @FLGovScott on Twitter for live updates on Hurricane Michael.
  • Visit http://www.floridadisaster.org/info to find information on shelters, road closures, and evacuation routes.


Preston Scott

Preston Scott

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