Following the recent countrywide implementation of stage-two load shedding by state power utility, Eskom, South Africans are cautioned to protect themselves, their property and their valued belongings. There are grave potential financial repercussions of not only the load shedding process, but also the dangerous power surges that can ensue as a result of electricity outages.
This is according to Christelle Colman, Executive for High-Net-Worth Solutions at Old Mutual Insure – who says that in her experience, the two most common risks associated with load shedding in South Africa include the potential damage to household appliances and the safety threat of security system malfunctions.
“As we approach the festive season, the risk of increased opportunistic crime should be top-of-mind for South Africans, considering the load shedding schedule is made public for all – including criminals – to see,” she adds.
Colman recommends that all South African homeowners take the following proactive steps to mitigate the risk of possible damage or loss caused as a result of electricity cuts:
Unplug appliances: It is always a good idea to unplug appliances, or any other electronic devices, when the electricity goes out as these devices are vulnerable to power surges. These appliances, which include cell phones and computer equipment, can be badly damaged when the power comes back on due to a spike in electricity flow.
Test the alarm system: During load shedding, alarm power packs and batteries may wear out faster, resulting in reduced functionality. This may also cause alarm systems to produce false alarms and panic signals.
It is therefore important to test the system regularly by activating it on purpose; ask your alarm company to service the system on a bi-annual basis; switch the electricity off to see if the battery is in a working condition, and ensure that all your alarm peripherals have fresh batteries if you have a wireless alarm system.
Install reserve batteries for fences and gates: To ensure that electric fencing and gates still work during load shedding, reserve batteries should be installed and maintained. While reserve batteries generally last for 6-8 hours when the power goes out, load shedding dramatically decreases a battery’s lifespan, so it is incredibly important that these are tested or replaced, especially if the policyholder is planning on going away over the holidays.
Secure your home: In the event that the power goes out, homeowners are advised to ensure that their homes are locked up and adequately secured, in order to reduce the risk of a home burglary. This will not only reduce the risk of a break-in, but will also improve the ease of your insurance claim in the event that any theft does occur.
Be vigilant: Because the load shedding timetables are open to the public, criminals unfortunately may see blackouts as an opportune time to undertake illegal activities. As such, extra vigilance is required, particularly when arriving or leaving the home in the evenings. Keep a torch in your car should you arrive home in the dark and need to open your perimeter security gate manually.”
Light up your home: During a blackout, people should make use of solar power or battery-operated lights. In addition, rechargeable torches and lights should also be kept in the home and car – but remember to keep these charged!
Be aware of generators: While homeowners may purchase generators, it is critical that these are never used inside the home or in an enclosed area. Generators produce carbon monoxide, which can be fatal if inhaled and is highly flammable.
Review your insurance policies: Homeowners need to review their insurance policies to see what is covered in the event of loss or damage to the home or its contents during a blackout. Policyholders are advised to speak to their insurance brokers about any additional cover that may be needed.
At this stage, the process of load shedding is not new to South Africans, says Colman. ”We’ve been here before, and from past experience, we have a fairly good idea of what the risks are. It is therefore essential that each and every South African take these necessary steps in order to reduce their risk of financial loss resulting from blackouts, including ensuring that they have adequate insurance cover in place.
“Insurance is there to ensure homeowners are able to replace their valuable assets, should they need to, but it’s up to you to make sure you have the right cover in place and that you are taking all the necessary precautions to protect your assets,” concludes Colman.