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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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Avoid Common Causes of Boat Damage

Florida leads the country in boating accidents and fatalities. A 2018 report from the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) says Florida had 607 boating accidents resulting in over $7 million in property damage.

“Preparation and training can help prevent most boating accidents,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s leading independent boat insurance agency.

The top boat claims include the following:

Towing

BoatUS, a U.S. Boat Owners Association, analyzed 5 years of claims from 2012 to 2017. They found 40 percent of all claims were towing claims. Learning how to properly tow a boat can be challenging. There are many variables that go into towing. Be sure to check your vehicle’s towing specifications, along with all the weights. Keep in mind the tongue weight. This figure will tell you how much of the trailer’s weight can rest on the hitch. Also, be sure to balance your cargo. Don’t forget to check the often-overlooked trailer tire pressure.

Sinking

Boats can sink for several reasons. In order to prevent a sinking boat, get proper maintenance and regular inspections. When you are out on the water, be aware of the weather which in Florida can transition quickly. Always check tides and currents as well as changing depths.

Weather

“When it comes to hurricanes, thankfully we get ample warning,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s largest independent boat insurance agency. This gives you enough time to move your boat out of the water if possible. Don’t forget to pull the drain plug and remove the electronics on board. If your boat will remain in the water, tie it securely and cover lines to prevent chaffing. Protect the boat from rubbing against the pier, pilings or other boats.

Collisions

Collisions with another vessel are typically caused by inattention, blind spots and speed. Drivers must always pay attention but also appoint a look-out. Before turning, be sure to look in all directions. And always maintain a safe speed in congested areas and at night. The water doesn’t have a clear right of way, so all boat drivers must take responsibility for avoiding a collision.

Striking a submerged object

It is very difficult to avoid striking a submerged object such as a log because it can be so hard to see. Drought conditions and heavy rains can contribute to floating debris in the water.  If you hit a submerged object, stop and check the bilge for leaks. Once you arrive at the dock, do another more thorough check for damage.

GreatFlorida Insurance can customize a boat insurance policy to protect your vessel and extend to your boating equipment in and out of the water. Give us a call today.

Putting Together a Home Quarantine Kit for Coronavirus

Voluntary or involuntary home quarantine may become more common as Florida declared a public health emergency Sunday after two patients tested positive for coronavirus in Hillsborough and Manatee counties. More positive tests are expected in the coming days.

Hundreds of Americans are already under voluntary self-quarantine for 14 days after to see whether they develop symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending that people who are sick with respiratory disease symptoms stay home, even though they acknowledge these symptoms are more likely to be from the flu than coronavirus.

“Self-quarantine occurs when people are asymptomatic and monitoring themselves for the development of symptoms,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s largest independent homeowners insurance agency.

If you find yourself among those who need to stay home, being prepared a head of time is ideal. You can purchase a ready-made preparedness kit or build your own. Here is what your home emergency kit should contain in the case of possible quarantine due to the coronavirus outbreak according to The American Red Cross and Homeland Security.

  • Water-rule of thumb is one gallon per person and pet per day for 14 days
  • Food-a supply of easy to make food for at least 14 days for each person
  • First aid kit
  • Multi-purpose tool, such as Swiss Army knife
  • Personal hygiene items-soap, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, diapers (if needed) and feminine care products
  • Plastic bags for trash
  • Medications-try to get a 30-day supply of prescriptions
  • Medical supplies-over-the-counter medication such as pain relievers, thermometer, contact lenses and fluids with electrolytes
  • Entertainment items such as books, cards and games
  • Electronic versions of health records
  • Emergency contact information- family, friends, neighbors, carpool drivers, health care providers, teachers, employers, the local health department and other community resources

“This list is simply to help people feel more prepared for the unknown, not incite panic,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s top independent homeowners insurance agency.

Also, it is important to talk with family members about how they would be cared for if they got sick or what will be needed to care for them in your home.

What about face masks? The Surgeon General, Jerome M. Adams advised Americans to skip the face masks, declaring they are for sick patients and are not effective in preventing the coronavirus.

GreatFlorida Insurance has homeowners insurance designed to keep your home protected in the event of a worse case scenario. Contact us today.