Chance to get free storm inspections dwindling

Jun 30, 2008

Program only will serve about 18,000 more homeowners statewide

Adam Ziglar
Pensacola News Journal–June 30, 2008

Tom and Linda Sherry’s home already has survived hurricanes Ivan and Dennis, but the Marcus Point Boulevard residents still intend to take advantage of free windstorm inspections being offered by the state.

"We’re fairly certain the house is hurricane-proof," Linda Sherry said. "But if they come up with any good ideas, we would consider them," Tom Sherry added.

The couple are among few homeowners in North Florida who are taking advantage of a state program offering 400,000 windstorm inspections.

The inspections only are available for single-family, detached dwellings, and provide homeowners with recommendations for upgrades and forms that could reduce their insurance premiums.

"It is imperative that people sign up in the next few days if they want to take advantage of this free program," said Ken Walton, owner of Panhandle Windstorm Inspections, a state-certified windstorm inspection company that services Pensacola east to Jacksonville and south to Ocala.

"If residents register today, they will have their insurance documents and recommendations on how to strengthen their home prior to the peak of hurricane season in late August and early September," Walton said.

As of Friday afternoon, only about 18,000 free inspections through the My Safe Florida Home remained available. About 4,500 per day are redeemed by Florida residents.

However, one local inspector said north Floridians haven’t responded to the program the way residents in other parts of the state have.

Bobby Cresap is a state-certified windstorm inspector with Panhandle Windstorm Inspectors. He said he probably will inspect fewer than 4,500 houses in the Panhandle.

"The state said only about 8 percent of the sign-ups in the state are in North Florida," Cresap said.

Still, of those few in the north end of the state who sign up, most are from the Panhandle.

"People here sign up because of (hurricanes) Ivan and Dennis," he said. "People are aware and sensitive to it."

They Sherrys bought their home brand new in 1994. Because it’s so new and they’ve weathered two hurricanes, they are confident their home mostly is up to code.

However, they will participate in the program because they hope to lower their insurance premiums.

"Maybe there’s a certain area we need to take care of," Linda Sherry said. "Now’s the time to do it before a storm gets here."