January 26, 2018, Sun Sentinel – “They want people talking about impact windows at their next party,” said Lisa Miller, an insurance industry consultant and one of FAIR’s earliest supporters. “They want homeowners competing not to see who can get the fanciest granite countertops but who will be the first to install hurricane-resistant roof straps and asphalt shingles.” Miller said she looks forward to seeing what Neal and Handerhan can accomplish with the FAIR Foundation’s storm preparedness goals. “Their mission is to make mitigation as cool as Starbucks,” she said. (Original story location: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/business/fl-bz-insurance-watchdog-refocuses-on-resiliency-and-mitigation-20180125-story.html )
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Insurance wonks Jay Neal and Paul Handerhan want to make hurricane and flood readiness cool.
The duo, who have been working together since 2011 as principals of the Fort Lauderdale-based Florida Association for Insurance Reform, are bringing their reputations as peacemakers and persuaders to the effort to convince Floridians that we need to bite the bullet and invest in protecting our homes from hurricanes and flooding.
On Feb. 10, they’ll reach one of their largest audiences when the TV special “Get Ready, Florida!” airs on WFOR-TV, the Miami-based CBS affiliate that broadcasts on Ch. 4. The 30-minute special, set for 7:30 p.m., is designed to urge property owners not to wait until the beginning of hurricane season, but rather to focus on preparation right now, during the calm winter and spring months.
“We typically wait until June and say, ‘Now is the time to prepare,’” said Handerhan, FAIR’s senior vice president for public policy. “But that’s too late, especially if you are planning a storm hardening project that requires selecting a contractor, getting financing in order, and getting proper credits from your insurance company.”
Hosted by Craig Fugate, former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the special will cover how hurricane deductibles work and why homeowners should purchase flood insurance. It also describes an additional level of coverage — called parametric insurance — that covers what a homeowner policy doesn’t cover, including the deductible, debris removal, dock repairs, evacuation expenses, food, gas, generator rentals and more.
Impact window selection and financing options will be discussed as well, and viewers will be shown how storm-resistant windows are made and installed.
The special was co-produced by FAIR’s new consumer education offshoot, FAIR Foundation, and Sachs Media Group, which has produced hurricane-preparation specials for two decades.
Education is one of the primary missions of the FAIR Foundation, formed last year, Neal and Handerhan said.
Residents of Florida communities most vulnerable to storm surge must be educated about the need to maintain flood insurance coverage, regardless of whether FEMA’s flood zone maps say they live in special hazard zones where flood insurance is required for homeowners with federally-backed mortgages, said Neal, FAIR’s president and CEO.
Six of the top 10 U.S. metro areas most vulnerable to storm surge are in Florida: Miami, Tampa, Cape Coral, Bradenton, Naples and Jacksonville. Of 2.4 million homes in those metro areas, 1 million have no flood insurance, according to information on the FAIR Foundation website from the 2016 CoreLogic Storm Surge Risk Report.
Consumers and workers in the insurance industry need to know more about how to better prepare for hurricanes and the coming effects of climate change, including more frequent and intense hurricanes, but also increased flooding from summer rainstorms, Neal and Handerhan said. Many South Florida residents don’t yet realize that inland flooding will become more frequent as the water table rises more often through porous limestone found in many parts of the region, they said.
Consumers also need to be reminded that they’ll get a return on their investment in impact windows and a new or reinforced roof, Neal said. The improvements would lower the price of their insurance and utility bills.
The FAIR Foundation website has a tool that allows consumers to see how much money they will save.
“They want people talking about impact windows at their next party,” said Lisa Miller, an insurance industry consultant and one of FAIR’s earliest supporters. “They want homeowners competing not to see who can get the fanciest granite countertops but who will be the first to install hurricane-resistant roof straps and asphalt shingles.”
The foundation has created a subsidiary called FAIR Insurance Trust to broker policies and invest the sales commissions into its education campaign. “Our goal is to reduce uninsured risk by half,” Neal said.
There’s also the FAIR Certified Partner Program to enable real estate and insurance agents to co-brand an insurance buying guidebook, “Wise Up Florida,” to give to customers, Neal said.
This year, FAIR plans to open an office in Washington, D.C., to promote preparedness through legislation, Neal said. They’d like Congress to add flood mitigation improvements to the storm hardening and energy saving projects that homeowners can finance through the Property Assessed Clean Energy program. FAIR has been a longtime supporter of PACE, which enables homeowners to fund improvements with financing repaid through their property tax bills.
Handerhan formed FAIR in 2010, soon after representing the Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters in a legislative battle against a group of insurance companies.
While sharing dinner in 2008 with Miller, a insurance industry lobbyist, Handerhan wondered why the sides couldn’t seem to compromise over anything. He decided to create a nonprofit organization focused on putting policyholders’ interests first by cajoling often-warring interests to sit down together and look for common ground.
Neal, who had owned an insurance agency in Tennessee, moved to Florida after the 2008 recession and joined Handerhan in 2011. They helped to referee numerous issues embroiling the industry at the time, including the sinkhole crisis and policyholders angered over how the state handled depopulation of state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp.
They found willing listeners among insurance company CEOs, state insurance regulators, trial lawyers, public adjusters, construction contractors and state legislators. They also intervened on behalf of individual insurance customers.
Neal remembers a Tampa area couple who had credit insurance on their home — that’s insurance that pays off a mortgage if one of the mortgagees dies. The husband found out he was terminally ill and the credit insurance company had suddenly canceled their policy.
“I’d never heard that a company could just cancel a policy like that,” Neal said. “I consulted with experts, got the insurance consumer advocate involved, and it turned out hundreds of other customers were in the same boat. We got involved and got [their policies] reinstated.”
FAIR recruited board members from most of the interest groups it worked with and found regular donors among organizations that acknowledged the value of its role.
“FAIR brings together very disparate groups of folks, which is unusual in today’s political world,” said Locke Burt, CEO of Security First Insurance and a financial supporter of FAIR. “The American public, I think, would like to see more of that.”
Miller said she looks forward to seeing what Neal and Handerhan can accomplish with the FAIR Foundation’s storm preparedness goals. “Their mission is to make mitigation as cool as Starbucks,” she said.