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Are you insured during load shedding?

By Staff Writer
Eskom's load shedding has raised concerns about increased crime and whether insurers will cover claims. Homeowners are being advised to step-up their security and to revise their insurance policies, to make sure that they are covered in the event that something happens as a result of load shedding.
Head of insurance expertise at IntegriSure Lizette Erasmus said in a statement that there has been a 10% increase in car-jackings, residential robberies and general robberies (the trio crimes). She adds that in the last five years these crimes have increased by four percent, and have increased by a total 95.3% in the past ten years.
Erasmus said: "What we find in the insurance industry is that people are more vulnerable [during load shedding] because their home alarm and electric fencing are obviously dependent on electricity. And of course pervious areas that they were able to light up at night, especially driveways, are now dark, and when you do get home it increases your risk in terms of being mugged or hijacked because of the fact that you are not able to see very clearly… And it is crucial for the consumer to understand the implications of making sure that their alarms are regularly serviced."
If you have declared that you have an alarm system or if it is a requirement of your insurance policy, Erasmus reveals that a majority of insurers have indicated that they will contact your security company when load shedding has taken place and you have left your premises about whether or not you armed the alarm.
Load shedding does have an impact on the lifespan of your backup battery, and you have to make sure that your system is up to date and that you check it regularly to ensure that no damage might have occurred because of the fluctuation in electricity flow.
"Usually alarm companies can provide you with a report indicating the time of activation. If an alarm was activated and for some reason it malfunctioned during the time of load shedding, the insurers agree that they will not penalise the insured by not considering the claim. Obviously each case will be taken on its own circumstances, but in general the feeling is that the consumer should not be penalised for something that is outside of his control," adds Erasmus.
Power surges
There has been an increase in claims related to power surges, as there is a fluctuation in voltages when the power returns, which can damage electrical appliances. Erasmus points out that some insurance policies do have power surge as a standard insured peril and you will be covered for it. However, she adds that there are other policies in the industry where this is optional cover or not available at all.
Erasmus states: "There has also been a major increase in residents and businesses opting to install generators, which poses a wide range of risks…most people have limited working knowledge of how this equipment works and should be managed. It is vital for you to find out what your insurer covers in terms of power surge[s], and it's always advisable if there is load shedding and you are at home unplug the non-essential electrical appliances that you might not be using."
An alternative to having to unplug all of your necessary appliances is to attach power surge protector plugs to your electronics. These protect your electronics, such as computers in the event of a power surge, damaging the plug rather than the devise. Erasmus highlights that these will also help to protect appliances in the event of a lightning strike.
Power surge protector plugs are available from most major retail stores. It is important to ensure that these are SABS approved.
When installing a generator it is crucial that you make use of a reputable electrician, as it is a legal requirement that you have a certificate of compliance for any work done on the electrics of your house. It is important to inform your insurance company when you install a generator as you will need to make changes to your policy to cover the generator.
"If it is a portable [generator] it will definitely form part of your household content, so you have to make sure your insurance is adequate to make provisions for that. If it is a fixed installed one that you install outside there will be some requirements in terms of security to make sure that it is properly bolted in and secured to protect it from theft," said Erasmus.
To ensure that you get an electrician that will install the generator to your insurance company's requirements, contact your insurance company for the name of an electrician that they would recommend.
Erasmus adds: "It could be a fire hazard if the wiring is not done correctly, and in terms of generators it is also very important to take note of the risks involved in using a generator. It does give off carbon monoxide, and obviously there is a fire risk because you are working with diesel and there are fumes that could be flammable."
Tips to ensure your safety
Erasmus said: "It's definitely a new era for us in terms of new risk and how we are going to manage it in terms of the consumer protecting himself as well the insurers."
She notes that there are several things that people can do to ensure their safety and the safety of the people around them during load shedding:
1.       Always be vigilant. Pay attention to your surroundings when the lights are out, as you cannot see as much of your surroundings as usual.
2.       Make sure that you have a fire extinguisher that is suitable for electrical fires.
3.       Ensure that everyone in your home is trained in how to operate the generator and how to put out a fire if something were to happen.
4.       When the power is out and it is dark make sure that your security gates are locked at all times. You are a soft target because you can't see what's going on outside.
5.       When you drive home at night and you have to get out of your vehicle to open the gate, do not leave the car running and don't leave your keys in the car. This makes it easier for someone to steal the car while your back is turned.

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