Protecting Your Workforce Against an Active Shooter

Protecting Your Workforce Against an Active Shooter

Protecting Your Workforce Against an Active Shooter

According to the FBI, there was an active shooter event every 18 days in 2016. While workplace shootings have been historically rare, the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that there was a sharp increase in 2016 in the number of office shootings, from 83 the previous year to 394. Shootings now account for the lion’s share of workplace homicides with 363 workplace shootings reported in 2019. Keeping your workforce safe against active shooters takes planning.

It’s your responsibility to provide a safe work environment, but what can you do when faced with the unthinkable? You can’t just rely on security guards and alarm systems. What you need is a solid plan that can be implemented during an active shooter situation to safeguard your employees.

Active Shooters

Monitor and React to an Active Shooter

Workplace violence and harassment policies provide a framework for addressing conflicts before they escalate. If these policies are well implemented, they will reduce the overall potential for violence by staff members.

It’s been proven that most active shooters display warning signs before resorting to guns. They will tend to isolate themselves, become increasingly despondent, forget to care for their hygiene, seem nervous, on the edge and impatient. They might seem harsh or quick to judge, prone to fits of anger or sadness, and often sick tired. In other words, their behavior changes in a way that should be noticeable to his or her colleagues.

Unfortunately, the Department of Homeland security reports that most active shooters had no ties with the place they targeted. Even if the active shooter isn’t a complete stranger, you may be powerless to pre-empt the situation if the shooter is a former employee, the spouse or partner of a staff member or a disgruntled customer who feels wronged by the company or its representatives.

Plan and Prepare

You’ll want to create a formal emergency response plan for dealing with an active shooter situation so that your staff knows clearly what to do when it happens. Having a policy in place is not enough to be well prepared. Train your employees, make it part of onboarding, and schedule drills. The FBI has active shooter resources on their website.

When confronted with a shooter, evacuation is always the first and best option. You’ll want to get as many people out of the building and to a safe location as possible, well away from the shooter. Your team needs to map out the fastest exit routes out of the building for each employee and provide alternate routes in case the planned escape route is blocked by the active shooters.

Employees will need to rehearse this often, much as they would a fire drill. Use a person dressed in orange to serve as the active shooter and block different routes. Monitor your staff’s progress and adapt the plan as needed. Employees should move quickly, though carefully, to their designated exit while doing their best not to be spotted by the shooter whose current location might elude them.

Active Shooters

Hide and Fight

Hiding comes next. If someone can’t leave the premises, they’ll want to find cover to shield them from any gunfire. That’s where preparedness on your part can make a big difference. Make sure each office door can be locked from the inside with deadbolts, door stops or other appropriate devices. Install blinds on windows. If the shooter cannot see inside the room, he will be less likely to enter.

Have your employees practice hiding by turning off the lights, locking the door, closing the curtains, shutting off computers and finding cover. During this exercise, pair employees so that one person acts as the “victim” and the other as an observer to evaluate their efficiency.

Finally, if the shooter is near and hiding is no longer an option, your employees must do what it takes to preserve their life. Some people believe they can do that by talking down an active shooter. That may be true for trained officials, but it is not a viable option for anyone on your team. Train your employees to avoid contact at all costs, stay hidden and quiet as long as possible, find a solid object, then attempt to disarm and render unconscious the perpetrator.

Train and Learn

Here are 8 tips to help you and your employees better prepare:

  1. Don’t forget to call 911, but only if it is safe to do so.
  2. Remind people to leave their belongings behind.
  3. Instruct your team to keep their hands visible as they leave the premises to show law
    enforcement they are not a threat.
  4. Tell your employees they can help others escape, as long as it doesn’t slow their own escape or
    put them in harm’s way. Leave the wounded where they are.
  5. Have your team warn people not to enter the area where the active shooter is thought to be
  6. If hiding, remind the person to remain quiet and silence their cell phone.
  7. If the active shooter is nearby, have the person call 911 to allow the dispatcher to listen in and
    locate the shooter.
  8. Finally, if action is required, tell the person to be as aggressive, threatening and decisive as they
    can be.

After an Active Shooter Incident

Seek professional help from trauma experts to promptly deal with the emotional and psychological impact of such an event. Most employees, even those who did not experience the incident first-hand, will need assistance dealing with the loss of close colleagues and the fear of returning to work.

You’ll also need to tally the physical property damage and business interruption expenses and provide assistance to your employees with their health-related claims.

It is your job to provide a safe work environment for your employees. That includes creating a smart active shooter plan. While you may never need to use it, preparing for such an event may save lives. If you need more information on protecting your workforce or creating active shooter policies, speak to you insurance professional; they can give you the guidance you need.

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As one of the fastest-growing agencies in California, GDI Insurance Agency, Inc. is able to provide its clients with the latest and greatest of what the insurance industry has to offer and much, much more. The GDI team has developed an “insurance cost reduction” quoting plan, that provides you with the best coverage at the best rate!

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Landscaper Gas Safety Tips

Landscaper Gas Safety Tips

Landscaper Gas Safety Tips

A wide range of landscaping equipment (e.g., mowers, trimmers and leaf blowers) is powered by gasoline. That’s why it’s crucial for employees to know how to properly manage this toxic, flammable form of fuel. After all, failure to store, transport or handle gasoline correctly could result in serious safety ramifications. Breathing in gasoline fumes can cause dizziness, nausea and disorientation, while gasoline fires can lead to severe burns and blisters. In the most severe cases, gasoline incidents can even result in death. Nevertheless, these concerns can be addressed with proper safeguards. You can help keep yourself and others safe when working with these landscaper gas safety tips at the job site by following these precautions.

Landscaper Gas Safety Tips

Selecting and Filling Gasoline Cans

First, it’s important to ensure that gasoline is kept in an approved gasoline can. Keeping gasoline in the wrong container increases the risk of the gasoline leaking or exploding from pressure over time.

Be sure to select a gasoline can that is made out of metal, holds 5 gallons or less and has a flame arrestor—which helps prevent sparks from traveling up the gasoline can’s nozzle. In addition, the gasoline can should be properly labeled with its contents. Never place anything other than gasoline in a labeled gasoline can.

Keep in mind that while plastic gasoline cans are common, they aren’t as safe as metal cans. Plastic cans will melt in the event of a fire, allowing the gasoline inside the can to escape and contribute to the spread of the flames.

When it’s time to fill your gasoline can, follow these landscaper gas safety steps:

  • Fill the can outdoors, on level ground and away from any ignition sources. Never fill a gasoline can inside a vehicle, as doing so could create a buildup of static electricity and set the gasoline can on fire.
  • Touch the can to the gasoline dispenser nozzle before removing the can lid. This will help reduce the risk of a static spark occurring during filling, which could ignite the gasoline in the can.
  • Keep the gasoline dispenser nozzle in close contact with the can inlet during filling—this practice will also help lower the risk of a static spark taking place.
  • If you spill any gasoline while filling, clean it up immediately. Bring extra work clothing to the job site in case you spill gasoline on yourself and need to change.
  • Because gasoline expands, it’s important to never fill the gasoline can above its maximum fill line. An overly full gasoline can is at greater risk of leaking or exploding.
  • When you are finished filling, replace the gasoline can lid and tighten it securely.

Transporting Gasoline Cans

When transporting gasoline cans, make sure you do so in a way that limits the spread of toxic gasoline fumes throughout the vehicle. Both full and empty gasoline cans should be placed far away from any passengers and the driver. The safest areas to place gasoline cans are within the vehicle bed or on a roof rack, if applicable. In any scenario, be sure to keep the cans secured in an upright position to avoid spills during transport.

Landscaper Gasoline Safety Tips and The Refueling Process

When refueling equipment with gasoline, follow these precautions:

  • Refuel the equipment outdoors, on level ground and away from any ignition sources. Allow the equipment’s engine to cool before you refuel, and loosen the fuel cap slowly to relieve pressure in the tank.
  • Remember to touch the gasoline can’s nozzle to the tank before removing the fuel cap to avoid a static spark from igniting the gasoline.
  • Keep the gasoline can’s nozzle in close contact with the tank to prevent spills. If you spill any gasoline, clean it up immediately. If you spill gasoline on yourself, change into your spare work clothing.
  • Pay close attention when filling the fuel tank—avoid overfilling it. When you are finished filling the tank, replace the fuel cap and tighten it securely.

Storing Gasoline Cans

When you are finished using gasoline, it’s vital to store it safely. Even though landscaping tasks can often require you to move between job sites, be sure to establish a secure location for storing gasoline cans. Although it might be tempting, you should never store gasoline cans—full or empty—in a vehicle. The best place to store gasoline cans is in a flammable liquid storage cabinet. Such a cabinet should be made of nonreactive metal, be able to remain at room temperature and be clearly labeled as a safe gasoline storage area.

Never block a flammable liquid storage cabinet’s doors, and avoid storing any items on top of the cabinet. Keep any sources of ignition and electronics at a safe distance from the cabinet. If you are ever unsure of where to store gasoline cans at work, consult your supervisor.

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As one of the fastest-growing agencies in California, GDI Insurance Agency, Inc. is able to provide its clients with the latest and greatest of what the insurance industry has to offer and much, much more. The GDI team has developed an “insurance cost reduction” quoting plan, that provides you with the best coverage at the best rate!

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Status of the DOL’s Independent Contractor Rule

Status of the DOL’s Independent Contractor Rule

Status of the DOL’s Independent Contractor Rule

On March 11, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced a proposal to rescind the independent contractor final rule. The DOL’s Independent Contractor rule was published on Jan. 7, 2021 and is scheduled to become effective on May 7, 2021. The DOL’s position is that adopting the rule would significantly weaken worker protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Although the final rule’s effective date has technically not yet been canceled,  this proposal signals the DOL’s intention to roll back the worker classification test established by the rule at the end of President Donald Trump’s administration.

As a result, employers should continue to monitor DOL communications on this topic for updates regarding worker classification obligations.

 DOL’s Independent Contractor Rule

Importance of Worker Classification

Whether a worker is covered by a particular law or is entitled to receive a particular benefit often depends on whether the worker is an employee or an independent contractor. In general, employment laws, labor laws and related tax laws do not apply to independent contractors.

Misclassifying employees has become an increasing concern for governments, courts and regulatory agencies. Employers that misclassify employees can be liable for expensive fines and litigation if a worker should have been classified as an employee and did not receive a benefit or protection he or she was entitled to receive by law.

However, classifying workers as either employees or independent contractors is not always a simple or straightforward task. There is no single standard or test that applies to every situation where an employer will need to determine whether a worker is an employee who is protected by a particular law. As a result, courts and enforcement agencies have to rely on a variety of case law and regulatory guidance that change depending on the issue that brings the worker classification issue into question.

Commonly used tests for worker classification include:

  • The Common Law Agency Test: The common law agency test assumes that, unless there is a definition for “employee,” “employer” and “scope of employment,” these terms are best understood in the context of the common law principles of agency. These principles, addressed by courts over time, focus on whether the employer has the right to control the work and how it is done. This test is generally used for purposes of worker classification under the Copyright Act, Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
  • The Economic Realities Test: The economic realities test requires a thorough analysis of the relationship between the parties, and evaluates the level of financial dependency that the worker has on an employer. Generally, under the economic realities test, the more an individual depends on an employer, the more likely it is that the individual should be categorized as an employee. The courts have favored this test when the term “employee” is used in a very broad sense—for example, in issues related to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the FMLA.
  • The Hybrid Test: As the name suggests, the hybrid test combines elements of the common law agency and the economic realities tests. Though some lower courts have used this test to deal with issues related to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the ADA, the Supreme Court has criticized this approach and is leaning more toward using the common law test for similar issues.
  • The IRS Test: The IRS has also developed its own test regarding whether an employment relationship exists between a worker and an employer, for purposes of determining tax liability of employers and individuals. The IRS test is sometimes referred to as the control test, and it expands and classifies factors from the common law test into three categories—a sphere of behavioral control, a sphere of financial control and factors that determine the type of relationship that exists between parties.

Regardless of which test is used and the context of the particular situation, employers should remember that employment relationships are dynamic. Changes that occur over time in the relationship between the company and a worker may impact how workers should be classified. For this reason, employers should evaluate whether their independent contractors are adequately classified on a regular basis.

 DOL’s Independent Contractor Rule

The DOL’s Independent Contractor Rule

The 2021 Final Rule

The DOL’s independent contractor classification final rule on Jan. 7, 2021. As published, the final rule was scheduled to become effective March 8, 2021.

This rule reaffirmed the use of the economic realities test for FLSA compliance. In issuing the rule, the DOL intended to provide a clear articulation of the economic realities test and its component factors, which it expected to lead to increased precision and predictability in the economic reality test’s application.

The factors used in the economic reality test are:

  • The nature and degree of control over the work;
  • The worker’s opportunity for profit or loss based on initiative and/or investment;
  • The amount of skill required for the work;
  • The degree of permanence of the working relationship between the worker and the potential employer; and
  • Whether the work is part of an integrated unit of production.

While the traditional approach of this test gives similar importance to all five factors, the DOL rule favored the use of the first two factors—also called the “core factors”—as determinative or controlling in the outcome. The rule also considered the remaining three factors as additional guidance. However, the final rule also stated that actual practice, rather than contractual or theoretical agreements, is more relevant during the worker classification process.

Commentators on this rule have suggested that giving greater weight to the core factors would likely result in more workers being classified as independent contractors rather than employees. Of particular importance is the impact some expect this rule will have on the gig economy and their access to employee benefits and protections.

The Regulatory Freeze

Shortly after his inauguration, President Joe Biden issued a regulatory freeze on this and other regulations adopted during the last few weeks of the Trump administration.

This freeze imposed a delay for the enforcement or effective date of agency rules and guidance to allow government officials sufficient time to determine whether these rules and guidance align with the policies of the Biden administration. This type of regulatory freeze is not uncommon when there is a change of political party affiliation at the highest levels of government.

The Delay and Proposal to Rescind

As a result of the regulatory freeze, on March 4, 2021, the DOL delayed the final rule’s effective date from March 8 to May 7, 2021.

A week later, on March 11, 2021, the DOL announced a proposal to rescind the DOL’s independent contractor rule. With the proposal, the DOL stated its opinion that implementing the rule would significantly weaken worker protections under the FLSA. Specifically, the DOL found that using this modified version of the economic reality test would narrow or minimize the importance of factors historically relevant in a comprehensive approach to evaluating whether an employment relationship exists.

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As one of the fastest-growing agencies in California, GDI Insurance Agency, Inc. is able to provide its clients with the latest and greatest of what the insurance industry has to offer and much, much more. The GDI team has developed an “insurance cost reduction” quoting plan, that provides you with the best coverage at the best rate!

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Transporting Landscape Equipment

Transporting Landscape Equipment

Transporting Landscape Equipment

Many landscaping tasks require the transportation of equipment and tools between job sites. As such, it’s important to secure these loads before transporting them to prevent safety incidents. After all, failure to properly secure a load could cause the equipment to shift or even fall off of the vehicle and onto the road during transportation. This could result in damaged equipment, hefty traffic fines and severe injury (or even death) to employees, other motorists or pedestrians. Whether you’re transporting landscape equipment just down the street or for an extended distance, be sure to follow this load securement guidance to keep yourself, the equipment being transported and others safe on the road.

Transporting Equipment

Transporting Landscape Equipment: Use the Correct Equipment

First, it’s crucial that you have the correct vehicle, systems and equipment in place to effectively secure a load. This includes:

  • The right vehicle—Only use a vehicle that is capable of transporting landscaping equipment—such as a cargo van, pickup truck or trailer. If you are unsure whether a company vehicle can be used for transporting loads, ask your supervisor.
  • A securement system—Such a system consists of a group of individual parts that work together to support and secure a load. Common securement system parts include decks, headboards, bulkheads, stakes, posts and anchor points.
  • Securing devices—These devices are designed to help hold a load in place during transportation. Securing devices can include webbing, strapping, bracing, blocking, chains, ropes, binders, shackles, clamps, latches, hooks and friction mats.
  • Tie-downs—Such items are a combination of securing devices that form an assembly that attaches to anchor points to restrain loads during transportation.
Transporting Equipment

Conduct Thorough Inspections

Apart from having the correct equipment, it’s vital to inspect this equipment and the load itself to ensure that safe and effective securement is possible. Utilize the following inspection tips:

  • Make sure that the vehicle, securement system, securing devices, tie-downs and equipment in the load itself are fully cleaned and don’t contain any excess debris (e.g., dirt, rocks or grass).
  • Ensure that the vehicle is in good condition, paying special attention to the fluid levels, brakes, seat belts, steering wheels and tires. Never use a vehicle in poor condition.
  • Analyze the securement system, securing devices and tie-downs for missing components, weakened parts or sections, signs of distress (e.g., stretches, cracks or frays) or other potential damages. Never use damaged equipment.
  • Review the size, dimensions and weight of the equipment in your load. Ensure that these measurements don’t exceed the vehicle’s maximum capacity or any part of the securement system’s working load limit (WLL). Each component of the securement system should include a WLL from the manufacturer.
  • Ensure that you are using an adequate securement system, suitable securing devices and the required number of tie-downs to effectively restrain the load.
  • Keep in mind that some large equipment might require oversized or overweight transportation permits. The standards for these permits can vary between states. Consult your supervisor to determine whether any part of the load requires a specialized permit.

Transporting Landscape Equipment: Contain, Immobilize and Secure the Load

Once you have inspected your equipment and confirmed that the load is a suitable size and weight for the vehicle being used, it’s time to secure the load. Follow these steps:

  • Before loading begins, be sure that the vehicle being used for transportation has the parking brake engaged. This will keep the vehicle from rolling away during the loading process.
  • Utilize a securement system plan that suits the unique characteristics of the load. This plan should properly distribute the weight of the load throughout the vehicle and be able to withstand a minimum amount of force in each direction.
  • Make sure that the setup of the securement system, securing devices, tie-downs and equipment in the load itself won’t compromise the safety of the driver or any vehicle passengers. Specifically, ensure that the setup won’t block the driver’s view, prevent the driver from freely moving their legs or arms, restrict the driver from accessing emergency materials (e.g., a first-aid kit or toolbox) or keep the driver and any passengers from being able to safely exit the vehicle.
  • Take extra precaution when securing articulated landscaping equipment or any other form of equipment that is more likely to shift during transportation (e.g., equipment with wheels). Be sure to utilize extra securing devices (e.g., straps and wheel blocks) to further immobilize the equipment. This is especially important for equipment that has attached accessories.

Ensure Compliance Lastly, make sure that all load securement procedures are compliant with any applicable federal, state and local laws. Remember to review both the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) requirements and your specific state’s DOT regulations regarding load securement. Consult your supervisor with any compliance concerns.

In Conclusion

Keep in mind that this article is just a brief overview of load securement safety. Be sure to review additional resources and talk to your supervisor you have any further questions regarding load securement.

California’s Leader in Insurance and Risk Management

As one of the fastest-growing agencies in California, GDI Insurance Agency, Inc. is able to provide its clients with the latest and greatest of what the insurance industry has to offer and much, much more. The GDI team has developed an “insurance cost reduction” quoting plan, that provides you with the best coverage at the best rate!

We are headquartered in Turlock, CA, with locations across the heart of California’s Central Valley, Northern California and beyond to provide a local feel to the solutions and services we provide our clients. We pride ourselves on exceeding our client’s expectations in every interaction to make sure that our client’s know how much we value and appreciate their business.

Contact us today 1-209-634-2929 for your comprehensive landscape contractor insurance quote!

FEMA Unveils Changes to the National Flood Insurance Program

FEMA Unveils Changes to the National Flood Insurance Program

FEMA Unveils Changes to the National Flood Insurance Program

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that it will be updating the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) pricing methodology through a new risk rating system. According to FEMA, this system—which is being referred to as “Risk Rating 2.0”—will leverage additional information and variables to help communicate policyholders’ flood risks more clearly, as well as deliver more accurate and equitable premium rates.

The National Flood Insurance Program currently provides nearly $1.3 trillion in coverage for over 5 million policyholders throughout the country. Under Risk Rating 2.0, approximately 23% of these policyholders will encounter premium rate decreases, whereas the other 77% will experience varying degrees of premium rate increases. FEMA confirmed that these rate adjustments will be implemented through a phased approach, with the first official rate changes beginning in October 2021.

Review this guidance to learn more about FEMA’s motivation for developing Risk Rating 2.0, how this new system will affect NFIP policyholders and the timeline for rolling out premium rate adjustments.

Reasoning for Risk Rating 2.0

FEMA’s current pricing methodology for the NFIP—which has been in place for nearly 50 years—primarily bases policyholders’ premium rates on static measurements. Namely, the existing system focuses on property elevation within a particular zone on the flood insurance rate map (FIRM).

Under Risk Rating 2.0, FEMA has integrated further flood hazard information into the NFIP pricing methodology—including private sector data sets, catastrophe models and actuarial science elements.

Apart from property elevation, Risk Rating 2.0 also incorporates the following flood variables within premium rate calculations:

  • Flood frequency
  • Flood type (e.g., river overflow, storm surge, heavy rainfall and coastal erosion)
  • Distance between a property and water source
  • Property rebuilding costs

FEMA explained that the current NFIP pricing methodology has resulted in policyholders with lower-valued homes paying steeper premium costs than their share of flood risks, while policyholders with higher-valued homes have been paying lower premium expenses than their share of flood risks.

However, FEMA emphasized that by utilizing additional information and variables to determine NFIP policyholders’ premium rates, it will be taking a “transformational leap forward” in the scope of ensuring accurate and equitable rates for all homeowners. In other words, Risk Rating 2.0 is intended to establish fairer rates for policyholders based on their unique flood hazards and property characteristics.

What’s Changing National Flood Insurance Program

According to FEMA, the current NFIP pricing methodology has led to policyholders encountering average premium rate increases of $8 per month each year at renewal. After incorporating additional flood information and variables into the pricing methodology, FEMA provided that Risk Rating 2.0 will have the following impacts on current NFIP policyholders’ premium rates:

  • Nearly a quarter (23%) of policyholders will experience premium rate decreases, paying an average of $86 less each month.
  • Two-thirds (66%) of policyholders will encounter moderate premium rate increases, paying an average of $0-$10 more every month.
  • The final 11% of policyholders will experience more significant premium rate increases—with 7% paying an average of $10-$20 more each month and 4% paying an average of over $20 more every month.

What’s Not Changing

Despite the various changes being implemented under Risk Rating 2.0, FEMA confirmed that these aspects of the NFIP will remain the same:

  • Utilizing flood mapping—In addition to the aforementioned flood information and variables, the FIRM will continue to be incorporated within NFIP pricing methodology.
  • Setting limits on rate increases—Statutory limits on premium rate increases will stay in place, meaning that most rates cannot rise by more than 18% each year.
  • Offering discounts—A wide range of existing NFIP premium discounts will still be offered to eligible policyholders. This includes (but is not limited to) continuous coverage grandfathering, discounts for policyholders who belong to communities that participate in the Community Rating System and the transfer of policy discounts to new homeowners when properties change ownership.

Risk Rating 2.0 Rollout

In terms of the timeline for implementing Risk Rating 2.0, FEMA is adopting a gradual approach. As a result, the new system rollout will occur in two main phases:

  • Phase I—This phase will start on Oct. 1, 2021. All new NFIP policies beginning on or after this date will be subject to Risk Rating 2.0. In addition, current policyholders who are up for renewal on or after this date and eligible for premium rate decreases under the new pricing methodology will be permitted to start paying reduced costs.
  • Phase II—This phase will start on April 1, 2022. All current NFIP policyholders who are up for renewal on or after this date will be subject to Risk Rating 2.0.

For additional insurance-related updates and resources, contact us today.

National Flood Insurance Program

California’s Leader in Insurance and Risk Management

As one of the fastest-growing agencies in California, GDI Insurance Agency, Inc. is able to provide its clients with the latest and greatest of what the insurance industry has to offer and much, much more. The GDI team has developed an “insurance cost reduction” quoting plan, that provides you with the best coverage at the best rate!

We are headquartered in Turlock, CA, with locations across the heart of California’s Central Valley, Northern California and beyond to provide a local feel to the solutions and services we provide our clients. We pride ourselves on exceeding our client’s expectations in every interaction to make sure that our client’s know how much we value and appreciate their business.

Contact us today 1-209-634-2929 for your comprehensive flood insurance quote!