Labor Day is a federal holiday celebrated across the nation since its founding year in 1894.  It has been rejoiced as a victory for the labor movement of its time born from the hardship of American workers in the late 1800’s whom regularly worked 12 hours a day, 7 days a week.  We have come a long way since then.

Labor Day weekend now is celebrated as a glorious 3 day weekend often including travel and outdoor activities.  This day also marks that the end of summer is near.

A decrease in gas prices and the overall economic optimism occurring right now in the U.S., is expected to push this Labor Day to have the highest travel numbers in years.  With increased traffic, both on roadways and waterways, we urge you all to have a fun holiday weekend taking extra precautions if you are traveling or enjoying water sports and activities.

Americans today, due to the great efforts of our ancestors, have the opportunity to experience a balanced work and home life.  I wish everyone to partake in a safe and happy holiday weekend!

Gulf Coast Underwriters will be closed on Monday in honor of the holiday and we will reopen for business on Tuesday morning at 8:30am.



As I suspected Hurricane Danny fizzled out. Now, we Floridians are keeping our eyes on Tropical Storm Erika. Do I think we in the Tampa Bay area need to concerned? No, not at all. Our friends on the east coast should definitely keep their ears open the next couple of days. There are still a lot of things that could impact this storm and whether she strengthens into hurricane status and what variation could occur in the track. Right now most of the state remains in the cone so we can’t brush her off just yet. As always, be prepared but don’t panic.


Before we go any further no, this severe weather watcher is not concerned about this storm but for our readers on the east coast of the state it may bear keeping an eye on the tropics. I guess I’ve grown quite complacent over the past few years but we in the Tampa Bay area have been really lucky for a very long time in terms of tropical weather. And I don’t see that changing any time soon.

So TS Danny is expected to strengthen into a Hurricane. The map above shows the computer model projections over the next few days. Clearly it is tracking westward. The question becomes what will it do once it reaches the Caribbean? I guess time will tell.

This model goes out about 5 days. Now is the time to double check your hurricane kit and safety protocol with your family to make sure everyone is on the same page.


Florida introduces new legislation that could have an impact of flood insurance premiums.

Florida lawmakers are beginning to focus their attention on flood insurance. Some are calling for an extension for the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, which was passed in 2014 as a way to reduce the insurance premiums that homeowners were paying for their coverage. The law is meant to limit premiums increases to no more than 18% in a given year, making flood protection less of a financial burden for consumers.

Lawmakers are showing support for new legislation called The Flood Insurance Market Parity and Modernization Act of 2015. The legislation would assist in the development of a private flood insurance market, which would provide homeowners with an alternative to the National Flood Insurance Program. Those receiving coverage through the federal program have been seeing major premium increases in recent years, and they have issued complaints regarding this problem, petitioning lawmakers to take action for the sake of their financial security.

A private flood insurance market would give homeowners access to more option when it comes to coverage, which may allow them to find the affordable coverage that they need. The competition created by the market may have a beneficial impact on the National Flood Insurance Program, ensuring that the program is held accountable. The legislation does not total support from state officials, however, as some lawmakers believe that it is unnecessary.

Some lawmakers suggest that the legislation would not benefit most homeowners. Notably, those experiencing significant increases in flood insurance premiums have second homes and, in some cases, rental properties. For those with multiple properties, income may not be an issue, and the financial aspects of flood insurance may not be as burdensome for these homeowners than others. Despite the opposition, however, many lawmakers are convinced that a private flood insurance market would be in the state’s best interests.


More than a year after President Obama signed into law the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014 (HFIAA), FEMA is still working on implementing changes to the NFIP and flood insurance rates across the country. Ultimately, HFIAA “slows some of the rate increases mandated by Biggert-Waters, offers relief to some policyholders that experienced high rate increases when Biggert-Waters was implemented and adds additional surcharges and fees,” explains Cassie Masone, vice president of flood operations at Selective Insurance Company of America. As FEMA continues the implementation process, what can independent agents and their clients expect?


FEMA has scheduled a number of changes to occur on April 1 that will impact the overall cost of many flood policies, Masone says. “Specifically, many policies can expect to see increases in the Reserve Fund Assessment and increases in the Federal Policy Fee, as well as overall rate increases that are now being capped on most policies,” she explains. Secondary homes—those lived in less than 50% of the year—in high-risk areas that were built before the community’s first Flood Insurance Rate Map took effect (also known as pre-FIRM) will receive a 25% annual rate increase, “which means essentially every four years, rates are doubling,” says Bruce Bender, specialist in outreach and risk communication services and a national consultant for FEMA’s FloodSmart marketing campaign and FEMA’s Risk MAP effort. Pre-FIRM businesses should also receive a 25% increase, Bender says, but first FEMA must find a way to distinguish between businesses and other non-residential buildings, such as churches. “With the help of WYO companies and agents, FEMA will be identifying out of the 5.5 million policies which ones are businesses,” Bender explains. “Until they can, all non-residential buildings are going to see up to an 18% increase annually. Starting probably next year, those pre-FIRM businesses will be on a 25% rate increase.” Increases for post-FIRM buildings in high-risk areas will continue at the typical rates of 9-12% before the surcharge, Bender adds.


According to Bender, “the big kicker this year is the addition of the surcharge.” During the development of HFIAA, Congress had to balance rate rollbacks and refunds with positive income by adding a surcharge for all flood insurance policyholders, he explains. That means beginning April 1, primary residents will pay an annual surcharge of $25 regardless of flood zone; all other buildings, including secondary homes, businesses, condos and more, will pay an annual surcharge of $250. And for some policyholders, that could mean serious sticker shock. “If you have a post-FIRM secondary building, you might be paying around $850 today,” Bender says. “On renewal this year, starting April 1, you’ll pay close to $1,200. That’s about a 40% increase.” Bender’s biggest concern is for policyholders who are not located in high-risk areas and aren’t required to purchase flood insurance, but still opt to purchase a Preferred Risk Policy. For $200,000 in building and $80,000 contents, those insureds would pay a premium of $390 to protect a secondary home, Bender notes. But “this year, that renews at $630,” Bender says. “That’s a 62% increase. So if the bank’s not requiring you to buy flood insurance, are you going to keep it? This surcharge that allows people to keep their pre-FIRM subsidized rates longer is now causing another subsidy of its own and impacts all policyholders.”


HFIAA also adds a $10,000 deductible option for all residential property owners, including single-family and two-to-four family dwellings, Masone points out. “It is important to note that this new deductible amount applies to both building and contents coverage,” she says. “That results in a 40% discount,” Bender adds. “If there’s a lender involved, typically the lender will probably have to approve such a high deductible. But you combine that with community rating system discounts, and it could help.”


If you are in mandatory flood zone and your flood premium is escrowed make sure you notify the flood carrier when it comes to your primary residence. You don’t need the bank paying a surcharge that you don’t really owe.




Ok, we are just a couple of days away from the official start of hurricane season. Today we will highlight some items you should pack in your disaster supply kit.

A Basic Kit should include the following items:

At least one gallon of water per person, per day with a minimum 3 day supply for drinking and sanitation

Food, at least a 3 day supply of non-perishable food

Battery powered weather radio

Flashlight with extra batteries

Whistle to signal for help

Moist towelettes or baby wipes, garbage bags and plastic ties

Manual can opener for food items

Prescription medications, glasses, contact solutions

Infant formula, bottles, diapers, diaper rash cream

Pet food and extra water for your fur-babies

Cash or travelers check’s

Important family documents

Sleeping bag or blanket for each person

Feminine supplies and personal care items,  such as denture cream

Paper plates, towels, cups and utensils

Books, games, puzzles, paper and pencil to occupy the kiddo’s

Basic First Aid Supplies to include: latex gloves, sterile dressings, cleansing agent, antibiotic ointment, band aids, thermometer, eye wash, scissors and tweezers. You may also some non prescription medicines like aspirin or antacids.

The  best thing you can do for your family is have a plan. Set a designated meeting place and get your kit together in advance of the storm season.



Despite living along the coast, and even after major disasters such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Ike in 2008, a recent survey revealed that most residents are not prepared for a hurricane. The U.S. Government’s National Hurricane Center advises the following actions for hurricane disaster preparation.

1. Develop a Family Disaster Plan

Developing a Family Disaster Plan is an often-overlooked but crucial part of disaster preparedness. Do you know what your escape routes are if a hurricane is approaching? Do you know which evacuation area you live in? If family members are separated during a disaster and communication is unavailable, how will you know where to meet?

2. Create A Disaster Supply Kit

Creating a Disaster Supply Kit includes not only food and water, but items like clothing, hygiene items, medicine and things to pass the time. You could be in a shelter without everyday items for days after a major hurricane.

3. Have A Place To Go

If you are ordered to evacuate, you should. But where will you go? Thousands of people will be asking that same thing, and competing against you for suitable locations. Know where to go prior to the storm’s approach.

4. Secure Your Home

In that 2009 survey, 97% of respondents didn’t know that garage doors are the structural component most likely to fail during a hurricane, yet Garage Door Retrofit kits are widely available in coastal areas. Find out how to secure those and other parts of your home before the storm hits.

5. Have A Pet Plan

If you have pets, you’ll need supplies and carriers for them as well. You’ll need to find an evacuation point that will accept pets and monitor their behavior after the storm, when all their familiar surroundings have changed.


Next week we will post a more detailed list of what should be in your disaster supply kit.