Joseph Cortes has no doubt the tragedy that claimed a Seffner man's life after he was swallowed up in a 60-foot sinkhole under his home will have huge ramifications.
"The fact that there's a fatality, that's a game-changer," said Cortes, public relations and marketing manager for Thunder Bay Builders, a sinkhole repair company.
This will likely change the way insurance companies, politicians and the general public view sinkholes, he said. It has also removed the focus from Hernando and Pasco counties, better known as "sinkhole alley," Cortes said.
Cortes said there has been an uptick of people calling his Spring Hill office worried that they too are in danger of being swallowed by a sinkhole or wondering if they should leave their home because of telltale signs of void activity.
And while there should be healthy concern, there is no need for panic, said Jim Flynn, marketing manager for LRE Foundation Repair in Brooksville.
The Seffner sinkhole was termed a "catastrophic ground cover collapse," which is rare in Florida and covered by a standard homeowner policy.
Flynn too has fielded dozens of calls from concerned residents and many from current customers who are already on the list for sinkhole repairs and want the timetable moved up.
"We try to put their minds at ease," Flynn said. "What we've seen here is very tragic and concerning, but we tell them that, while we can't guarantee anything, what you saw on the news is rare."
Rescue crews, including the victim's brother, tried to reach Jeffrey Bush, 37, who had been in his bedroom at the time the void opened on Feb 28.
The majority of problems result from normal foundation settlement and don't rise to the level of a sinkhole.
Many people see cracks in their driveways or around their homes and call their insurance companies, which will send out an engineer to see if there is sinkhole activity.
It's wise to get those checked out — just to make sure, Flynn said.
"Put it this way: I'd have a tough time sleeping at night if I had a sinkhole and I did not have the ability to get it repaired or chose not to get it repaired," Flynn said.
Kevin Johnston, valuation services supervisor with the Hernando County Property Appraiser's Office, has not seen an increase in calls from concerned residents.
But then, Johnston said he is typically the last person in the chain to get those calls, after the insurance company and the sinkhole company.
"In the past week, there's been nothing out of the ordinary," Johnston said. "There's been no spike in the numbers at all since that story hit."
But, he added, his office wouldn't see any impact immediately.
Johnston said there have been 5,876 sinkhole claims reported to the property appraiser's office from 1995 to the present.
There were 136 reports of sinkhole activity logged to the Hernando County property appraiser's office in January and February this year, down from 326 for the same two months last year.
For the first four days of March this year, there have already been seven reports.
Of the 1,957 reported sinkholes in 2012, 908 (or 54 percent) were repaired.
The Bush tragedy has caused an outpouring of community support. Cortes said one of his salespeople offered to help out the family financially.
While the odds of a sinkhole of this magnitude opening up and killing someone, especially without any previous evidence of problems, are low, it is still a reminder for others, Flynn said.
"Florida has a sinkhole problem and if you don't address the sinkhole then what happened in Seffner could happen," he said.