Come hail or high water: Staying safe during storm season
By: Karabo Kopeka
While spring’s arrival might well evoke the prospect of picnics and leisurely outdoor entertainment, the reality of this shoulder season is that it can often be destructive, characterised by frequent storms capable of causing significant damage to both property and populace.
These ferocious cloudbursts, which typically make their presence felt during the final trimester of the year, are known to elicit flooding, hail and various other unwelcome phenomena that can be both perilous and costly.
How do you stay safe and keep your valuables protected when the heavens open? Here are a few key tips to help you navigate the impending storm season:
While it is impossible to completely avoid storms, you can minimise the damage by preparing accordingly should you find yourself caught in a flash flood. While you might think your SUV is immune to the threat of water, it is best to bear in mind that just 60cm of moving water is all it takes to sweep a car away. As such, consider keeping an effective window shattering tool – an old spark plug should do the trick – to facilitate your escape if need be. Always be prepared and keep emergency numbers close, have your phone charged and call for help at the first sign of trouble if caught in a flood.
It is imperative, now more than ever, to ensure that your tyres have sufficient tread and that your spare tyre is in good working condition. Check both front and back lights to ensure optimal visibility in the event of heavy downpours.
Check the weather
Skies can go from blue to bruised in the blink of an eye, so keep a close eye on the weather forecast before leaving your home. Should you see bad weather on the horizon, choose the path of least resistance; and if you find yourself far from home, seek out a safe place and keep your car undercover, as torrential hail can lay claim to your vehicle in mere minutes. Look out for localised weather alerts from your insurer, which enable you to keep tabs on your immediate surroundings and take appropriate action.
Staying safe on the roads
Heavy rains and flash flooding can make roads particularly perilous, it’s best to know what to expect should you find yourself in a particularly slippery situation. The best cure is always prevention, so if you are able to find shelter, that should always be your first port of call. However, should that not be an option, here are a few key pointers to consider in especially wet weather:
- Don’t allow your car to mist up - make sure your demisters are activated so as to ensure optimal visibility
- Keep your headlights and your hazard lights on to make yourself and others more visible
- Avoid slamming on brakes to avoid skidding, and increase the distance between you and other motorists
- Never drive through deep water, as your tyres can quickly become flotation devices and dislodge even the heaviest of vehicles from the road
- Remember that hail causes more damage to moving cars. If you are unable to find adequate shelter, it’s better to pull over when safe to avoid unnecessary havoc.
Surviving storm surges
If you find yourself outside during a lightning storm and are unable to find a fully enclosed shelter, keep your distance from trees, water sources and high ground, as well as metal objects like light poles, which can conduct electricity. While it might seem counter-intuitive, your car is in fact a perfect shelter, despite being made from metal. Thanks to its rubber tyres, it actually acts as an insulation device, grounding electrical current and thus keeping you perfectly protected.
Check your cover
Hail and storm damage can be extremely costly to repair, so it is important to check that your insurance policy covers you for any type of storm-related eventuality. Make sure you are covered against the dangers that come with stormy weather.
While storms are inevitable and entirely unavoidable, your ability to think ahead and prepare accordingly could make all the difference when the heavens eventually open. Check that your insurer offers convenient SMS services which enable you to register your claim immediately after a storm, bypassing the call centre queues; or offer handy mobile apps, which can also make it easier to register a claim without having to wait in line, as the volume of claims following violent storms can be large.
Karabo Kopeka is MiWay Insurance Head of Claims