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An Active 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season

Florida has survived the first tropical storm (Arthur), before hurricane season has arrived. Hurricane season runs from June 1-November 30.

“It’s difficult to wrap your head around the idea of storm potential, when coming off quarantine or still in quarantine,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s largest independent homeowners insurance.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, NOAA announced today, it is expecting a busy Atlantic hurricane season. NOAA is forecasting a likely range of 13 to 9 named storms (winds of 39mph or higher), of which 6 to 10 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 3 to 6 major hurricanes (category 3, 4, or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher). NOAA  stands behind their predictions with a 70 percent confidence. How does this forecast compare to previous hurricane seasons? The average hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which 6 become hurricanes, including 3 major hurricanes.

“The combination of several climate factors is driving the strong likelihood for above-normal activity in the Atlantic this year. El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) conditions are expected to either remain neutral or to trend toward La Nina, meaning there will not be an El Nino present to suppress hurricane activity. Also, warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, coupled with reduced vertical wind shear, weaker tropical Atlantic trade winds, and an enhanced monsoon all increase the likelihood for an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season,” reports NOAA.

 NOAA is not the only group expecting an active hurricane season. “Nearly all seasonal projections that have been issued by various agencies, institutions and private forecasting companies call for this season to be quite busy,” says Taylor Ward, CNN Meteorologist.

However, it is good to know NOAA and other weather agencies are not making a landfall forecast. It is possible to have an active hurricane season with no US hurricane landfalls. In fact, most don’t make landfall. However, it only takes one big hurricane landfall to cause destruction.

As with every hurricane season, hurricane preparedness is important. Keep in mind, you may need to adjust your current arrangements based on the latest health and safety guidelines from the CDC and your local officials.

GreatFlorida Insurance offers dependable property insurance for Floridians. Our homeowners insurance can cover hurricane damage incurred by windstorms. However, most home policies do not include flood damage.

We offer flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program, NFIP. Floridians have another year before they see a hike in flood insurance premiums. New rates are expected in October 2021.

GreatFlorida Insurance has experienced, independent agents are located throughout the state to answer your questions and help you find the coverage you need and for the right price. To learn more about our services call 888-478-7801 or go online for a free quote at www.greatflorida.com.

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A Guide to Staying Safe During Re-Opening

We are now entering a new phase of the coronavirus as Florida eases public health restrictions.

“Re-opening doesn’t mean we are completely out of the woods yet, so caution is advised when going in public,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s largest independent home insurance agency.

This means that in many cases, you’ll have to try to make an informed decision about what’s safest for you and others. Lindsey Marr, Professor at Virginia Tech laid out the basic calculus in an article in The Atlantic: “It depends on your own health, your age, preexisting conditions, how much risk you’re willing to tolerate, and the benefit that the activity could provide to you.” Another crucial variable: how much risk you might be introducing for everyone else around you.

Listed are strategies from public health experts to reduce transmission as you emerge from your home out into public.

Work

If possible, continue working from home.

Take stairs instead of an elevator to minimize crowding.

Disinfect your work surfaces daily.

If you work in an open space, wear your mask all day.

Hold all meetings virtually.

Avoid shared spaces and consider eating outside or 6 feet apart from a co-worker.

Restaurants & Bars

Wear a face mask and only remove to eat food.

Don’t eat with your hands.

Sit outside if possible.

Reflect on whether the experience of eating in a restaurant is worth the risk, takeout is better.

Salons & Hairdresser

Getting your nails or hair done means close contact.

Make sure time between appointments is spaced out for cleaning after the prior customer.

You and your hairdresser should wear a face mask.

Parks, Beaches, Pool

Experts agree that socializing in well ventilated spaces, preferably outdoors is recommended.

You must be able to keep distance between you and others in and out of the water, public bathrooms or ice cream stands could make this a problem.

If the destination is too crowded, go somewhere else.

Shopping & Malls

Curbside pick-up is preferable.

Go during off peak hours.

Pay online or over the phone ahead of time.

Space out when waiting in line.

Gyms

Call ahead to find out safety protocols.

Keep six feet apart.

Bring your own towel and water bottle.

Wipe down equipment yourself.

Traveling

The consensus is driving is better than flying.

On long drives, try to minimize stops as much as possible.

Most airlines are requiring masks be worn on flights.

If you have not made plans for the spring or summer, consider holding off until a later date.

“Individuals will have to weigh the consequences of non-essential activity for themselves and the community,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s top independent home insurance agency.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC continues to stress observing basic precautions. Those include, keeping your distance from others, washing hands regularly, using hand sanitizer in public, avoid touching your face, wearing a mask and staying home if you are feeling sick.

GreatFlorida Insurance is here to answer your insurance inquiries. For dependable home insurance, contact us today.

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Creating an Outdoor Refuge

While the world is slowly opening back up, it will be sometime before we are out and about as we were pre-coronavirus. “Although most areas are reopening in Florida, many want to take a cautious approach in getting out in public,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance Florida’s largest independent home insurance agency.

While numerous businesses are struggling to stay afloat, home improvement stores such as Lowes, Ace Hardware and Home Depot are experiencing consistent traffic.

Home is now the place we spend most of our time. Creating or enhancing a pleasant environment can foster joy and peace. Fresh air and sunshine only contribute to your well-being.

As you turn your attention outdoors, what changes in your yard would make you happy? A good place to start is deciding the function of your outdoor space.

If you like to entertain, ample space for guests, seating and dining with proximity to a cooking area, like the kitchen or grill is priority.

You want to create a relaxing get away? Winding walkways a distance from your home that lead to a private garden with comfortable seating and a water feature to drown out the noise would suit you well.

Wanna play? Your recreation area should include partial shade and a soft floor such as grass, sand or a rubberized surface.

Your outdoor space can also be divided up for multiple uses. If you are looking for an easy DIY outdoor project to up your yard game, you can enhance with one of the following suggestions from HGTV:

Adding string lights

Plant or buy container gardens

Put in solar lighting along a pathway

Hang squirrel or bird feeders- these are sure to provide entertainment

Add pavers, rocks, mulch or ornamental grass along the border of your yard

If you are looking to commit to a bigger project to transform your backyard one of the succeeding might be for you.

Patio

Deck

Pool

Sports court

Front porch

“Outdoor projects can increase your property’s appearance, value and your enjoyment,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance Florida’s top independent home insurance agency.

Don’t forget the shade. The sun is nice, but you will need some relief from the heat. Shape options include an umbrella, sun shade, shade sail, pergola, lattice or awning.

GreatFlorida Insurance is here for you. Contact us for your home insurance needs.

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Transitioning from Staying at Home

On Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSanits will address the state and outline a plan for easing restrictions and re-opening businesses.

“Floridians can expect a phasing in,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s leading independent home insurance agency.

“Phase One is a baby step,” DeSantis said during a news conference at Tampa General Hospital. “We are deliberately going to be very methodical, slow and data-driven on this because I think people want to have confidence things are going in a good direction.” He said a slow approach would also give the state an opportunity to step in to handle any spikes in the disease that might occur.

Social distancing, face coverings and limiting the number of customers from normal capacity will likely be included. The guidelines may well follow those suggested in the “Opening Up America Again,” a document from The White House and the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

It recommends states shouldn’t start to reopen until they have a downward trajectory of documented cases in a 14-day period or a downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests in a 14-day period.

Phase 1 emphasizes individuals to continue practicing good hygiene such as, hand washing and keeping your hands off your face. It also urges those vulnerable and sick to stay home and minimizing non-essential travel as well as avoiding socializing in groups of 10 or more.

Employers are encouraged to telecommute, returning to work in phases and closing common areas. Elective surgeries can resume, gyms can open but bars and large venues should remain closed. Visits to hospitals and senior living facilities should be prohibited.

Americans overwhelmingly support state-imposed restrictions on business and the size of public gatherings to slow the spread of coronavirus, according to a poll from The Washington Post and University of Maryland.

While there is plenty of talk about opening businesses and getting our economy back on track, the poll finds many Americans’ still have concerns about becoming seriously ill. The findings suggest that even as states begin to reopen on a gradual basis, many citizens could be cautious about resuming activity.

Some are concerned reopening too soon could prompt a second wave of infections. “Each person must weigh the risk of health and the economy in moving forward,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s largest independent home insurance agency.

GreatFlorida Insurance is here for you. If you have questions about homeowners insurance contact us today.

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Is this recyclable?

Wednesday, April 22 is Earth Day. This annual 50th celebration was set to be a worldwide party and it will, but it is going virtual. By clinking on the link, you can find several ways to commemorate this day and join numerous festivities and find activities online.

“In the midst of a pandemic, it is healthy to turn our attention to another important issue, the environment,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s largest independent home insurance agency.

Pew Research Center data found most Americans report, concern for the environment. So how can this concern be channeled into action-recycling. Due to current coronavirus restrictions, retail facilities that usually accept recyclables are not, however curbside pick-up is considered essential business.

When it comes to recycling, most Americans are supportive, but not always clear on what can be recycled curbside. Popsugar complied a list of commonly recycled items that do not belong in the recycle bin. Many of the listed items contaminate the recycling process or cause damage to the recycling machinery.

Please keep these items out of the recycle bin.

  • Pizza box – oil and food cause contamination
  • Plastic bags-damage the machinery
  • Coat hangers- wire, plastic and wood cannot be recycled
  • Power cords-the metal cords are surrounded by a nonrecyclable layer of plastic or rubber
  • Batteries- rechargeable and lithium-ion
  • Ceramic dishes
  • Bubble wrap-damage the machinery
  • Brightly dyed paper-heat treat with contaminates
  • Plastic bottle caps-oddly, they are made from nonrecyclable plastic
  • Plastic straws- too small and thin and can damage the machinery
  • Styrofoam containers
  • Plastic utensils
  • Tires
  • Snack bags-they are made of mixed materials
  • Garden hoses
  • Toys

“Knowing what can and cannot be recycled helps the process go smoothly, preventing recyclables ending up in the landfill,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s top independent home insurance agency.

Just because an item has a recycle symbol on it, doesn’t always mean it can be placed in a traditional recycle bin. Look for numbers 1, 2 and 5. Also, all containers need rinsed and free of food before being recycled. And those masks and latex gloves, those items belong in the trash, not the recycle bin.

During uncertain times, GreatFlorida Insurance is here for you to help you with all your home insurance needs. If you have questions, give us a call.

https://www.greatflorida.com/florida-homeowners-insurance
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Living with Someone Who has COVID-19

As of today, the Florida Department of Health is reporting 21, 367 confirmed cases of coronavirus across the state.

“As the virus continues to spread, it is essential to know how to effectively handle it, if it is contracted by someone in your home,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s largest independent homeowners insurance company.

If you live with someone who is exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, your worry is not only for them, but yourself and other family members.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports if you are only experiencing mild symptoms, you should recover at home. Mild symptoms include, aches, chills, fatigue, fever, dry cough, sore throat, running nose and diarrhea. However, if you are an older adult with an underlying medical condition you are at higher risk for developing serious complications from the COVID-19 illness and should seek care as soon as symptoms start.

More severe symptoms where medical attention is needed includes, trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or the ability to arouse and bluish lips or face.

If someone in your family contracts COVID-19, the CDC has the following guidelines to keep you and others in your household safe, while caring for the ill.

  • Have the person stay in one room, away from other people, including yourself, as much as possible.
  • If possible, have them use a separate bathroom.
  • Avoid sharing personal household items, like dishes, towels, and bedding
  • Have them wear a cloth face covering (that covers their nose and mouth) when they are around people, including you.
  • It the sick person can’t wear a cloth face covering, you should wear one while in the same room with them.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after interacting with the sick person. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Every day, clean all surfaces that are touched often, like counters, tabletops, and doorknobs
  • Wash laundry thoroughly.
  • If laundry is soiled, wear disposable gloves and keep the soiled items away from your body while laundering. Wash your hands immediately after removing gloves.
  • Avoid having any unnecessary visitors.

While there is no medication available for COVID-19, sick people should stay hydrated and get plenty of rest. Over-the-counter medicines may help ease symptoms.

“Remaining calm and as stress free a possible, benefits you and everyone in your home,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s top independent homeowners insurance company.

People can come out of isolation when at least seven days have passed since symptoms first appeared. Also, it has been at least three days without a fever without the use of medications and respiratory symptoms are improving.

GreatFlorida Insurance is here for you. If you have questions about homeowners insurance contact us today.

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Auto Insurance Reimbursement

Two auto insurance companies, Allstate and American Family Insurance plan to reimburse their customers millions of dollars because people are driving less during the coronavirus outbreak. “As circumstances change, the insurance industry is also required to make adjustments for agents and our clients,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s leading independent auto insurance agency.

On Monday, both auto insurance companies announced they will reimburse their customers per car that a household has insured with the company. People are driving less and the auto insurance companies are experiencing fewer claims.

Other insurance companies are expected to do likewise. While acknowledging it is probably not enough, insurance industry experts agree it is a good first step.

State Farm says they will decide on premiums by the end of the week. While, Progressive says they are considering how to best return premiums to customers and will have a plan in place soon.

COVID-19 has many Floridians working from home and driving a lot less. The drop has even led to a plummet in gas prices over the past month. AAA reports the average gas price per gallon in Florida has gone from$2.40 to $1.89.

“Reimbursing is one way carriers are adjusting to the sudden changes from this pandemic, “says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance.

Insurance Journal has an article, “What Florida Agents Need to Know During Coronavirus Crisis,” discussed is reimbursement and flexibility on terms. They spoke with Jeff Grady, President of Florida Association of Insurance Agents and he said, “In the admitted market you see a lot of national and regional carriers communicating to their policyholders and agents that they are going to be flexible on terms, but the non-admitted market is a little more distant on that and it’s a little choppier as to what certain carriers might do…We’re hoping and we’re going to encourage that the non-admitted market look at ways to help the consumer.”

If you are looking for auto insurance or have questions, give GreatFlorida Insurance a call, we are here to help guide you through these unusual times.

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Orders Issued for Vacation Rentals and Boats

As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in Florida daily, officials look to slow the spread of the virus. “New executive orders are coming weekly, changing our daily routines it is important to stay informed,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance Florida’s largest independent homeowners insurance agency.

On Friday, Gov. DeSantis signed an Executive Order to suspend vacation rentals for 2 weeks, until April 10. Vacation rentals such as Airbnb and HomeAway are prohibited from making new reservations. They also cannot accept new guests for check-in for the duration of the order. However, the ban does not apply to travelers already staying in a vacation rental.

There are exemptions to the order. It does not apply to hotels, motels, resorts, time-shares or long-term rentals (over 30 days). Stays set to begin no later than March 28 are also exempt from the ban.

Those violating the order are subject to criminal sanctions including potential second-degree misdemeanor charges and may have their vocational rental license revoked.

Recreational boats are also facing new rules. An order on Friday says all recreational boats must be at least 50 feet apart with no more than 10 people on board. This is an effort to enforce social distancing on Florida’s waterways. 

“We all have to make sacrifices during this time to promote wellness,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance Florida’s largest independent homeowners insurance agency.

Responding to travel bans and an increase in cancellations, Airbnb is offering flexibility to cancel bookings without penalties. They are offering guests full refunds and hosts no charge cancellations for reservations booked on or before March 14 with a check-in date of April 14 or earlier, according to the Airbnb website.

When the policy was announced, some short-term rental owners saw their vacation-rental reservations disappear. Many hosts have watched their incomes dissolve. On Monday, Airbnb addressed the concerns with a $250 million Host Relief Fund to cover some costs of COVID-19 cancellations. The reimbursements are funded by Airbnb and will go to hosts with qualifying cancellations, paying 25 percent of what they would normally receive from a canceled booking.

GreatFlorida Insurance is here for you. If you have questions about homeowners insurance contact us today.

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What does it mean to, “Stay-at-Home?”

As of this morning, Florida is reporting over 1,400 COVID-19 cases with 18 deaths. Miami-Dade and Broward counties are the hardest hit areas so far in Florida.

Over a dozen states across the US and millions of Americans have been asked to stay-at-home or shelter-in-place. The reason is to help prevent the spread of the virus and the drain on the healthcare system. CNN reports, as of Wednesday, that will be 40 percent of the US population.

Miami Beach is the first city in Florida to enact a stay-at-home order. The Miami Herald reports, other cities are expected to follow. As of Monday, Gov. DeSantis said he has no plans to issue a statewide stay-at-home order.

“This situation is fluid, and changes daily,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s largest independent homeowners insurance agency.

So what happens if your city, county or state is place under stay-at-home restrictions? What does that mean? There are slight differences between how the states define the limitations, but for most areas it means the following.

You Can…

  • Go to the grocery, convenience or warehouse store
  • Go to the pharmacy to pick up medications and other healthcare necessities
  • Go to medical appointments (check with your doctor or provider first)
  • Go to a restaurant for take-out, delivery or drive-thru
  • Care or support a friend or family member
  • Take a walk, ride your bike, hike, jog and be in nature for exercise — just keep at least six feet between you and others in the community. Keep in mind, all state parks in Florida are closed.
  • Walk your pets and take them to the veterinarian if necessary
  • Help someone to get necessary supplies

You Should Not…

  • Go to work unless you are providing essential services
  • Visit friends and family if there is no urgent need
  • Maintain less than 6 feet of distance from others when you go out
  • Visit loved ones in the hospital, nursing home, skilled nursing facility, or other residential care facility

“There is so much misinformation about COVID-19, please consider the source of your information and make sure it is reliable,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s top independent homeowners insurance agency.

There are differing opinions on how to handle the situation. Whether you agree on how things are being handled or not it is important to stay informed. Below are links you can find out the most current information in our state.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-stay-at-home-order.html

https://www.flmedical.org/florida/Florida_Public/Education/Coronavirus_Information.aspx

GreatFlorida Insurance is here for you. If you have questions about homeowners insurance contact us today.

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Working from Home

It is no longer business as usual. With the COVID-19 many companies are implementing remote work and requesting or demanding their employees work from home.

The Insurance Journal reports in the past, certain licensed insurance employees were restricted from working from home by a Florida law that required agents conduct business from their agency offices. But due to the unprecedented conditions insurance reps can now work from home.

“Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who oversees the Florida Department of Financial Services, has issued a directive allowing Florida agency customer service representatives who would otherwise be restricted from conducting business outside of a licensed agency to do so given the current circumstances,” reports the Insurance Journal.

“This change will certainly allow more flexibility and opportunity for agents during these unusual times,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s leading independent homeowners insurance agency.

Working from home can be a blessing and a curse. Below are some tips to keep you productive and not feeling isolated.

Establish a schedule– Create realistic office hours. If you have children at home, it is not sensible to think you can work the same hours as a typical workday. Check your employer’s expectations but make them aware of your limitations during this time.

Get dressed– Going through a routine of taking a shower and putting on clothes will help your mind prepare for work, as opposed to rolling out of bed in your PJ’s.

Create a workspace– If you do not already have an office, designate a place to work. Place your laptop on a surface-a dining table, coffee table or kitchen counter. Also, be sure to keep it as you would at work, organized and tidy.

Make sure you are secure-Whether you are using a company provided or personal tech, be sure your mobile phone, laptop, home computer and router are secure. NBC News spoke with the country’s top digital security experts and they made the following recommendations. Always utilize the company’s designated communications platform. Install a commercial grade security software. Be alert for hackers and scammers taking advantage of increased telecommuting.

Check-In-Establish times throughout the day to check-in with co-workers, your boss, your team. This will keep you organized and on the same page. Even if you don’t have to check in with co-workers. Working remotely can eliminate the social connection you have at work, maintaining that connection is vital to your well-being during a time of already strained social interaction.

“Send your co-workers a funny meme, joke or emoji,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s top independent homeowners insurance agency.

Utilize video-Phone calls are great, but video is better. Communication is better grasped when you can see facial expressions. It also helps deepen the connections with people. Check out Skype or Zoom.

Get on up-Be sure to move around and give yourself breaks, check the mail, grab a snack, or go for a walk down the street. Get some fresh air and breathe. These are unique times, but we will all get through them if we stick together, be patient and extend kindness to others.

GreatFlorida Insurance is here for you. If you have questions about homeowners insurance contact us today.