Many of the insurance claims filed for goods damaged by load shedding are not in fact covered, an insurance expert has warned.
Old Mutual Insure's Insurance Expert, Christelle Colman, says while company data shows the most recent bout of load shedding has not yet sparked an increase in overall claims, previous load shedding claims have often been for items not necessarily covered by an insurance policy.
"Claims are typically for things like the deterioration of food; the spoiling of refrigerated stock in trade; and damage to appliances or sensitive equipment due to a sudden power surge," Colman said.
She advised policyholders to check their documents carefully to see what they were covered for.
"All policies are different, so it is essential that each and every South African takes the necessary steps to reduce their risk of financial loss resulting from blackouts. This includes making sure that you have both the correct insurance cover in place for your needs, as well as adequate cover to insure the required value of your assets."
Owners must also take care to prevent damage in the first place, she said.
Here are Colman's top tips for mitigating losses:
1. Unplug appliances and sensitive equipment: Unplug appliances or electronic devices that may be vulnerable to power surges. This includes cell phones, computers, servers and LCD screens, all of which could be badly damaged when the power comes back on due to a spike in electricity flow.
2. Beware your generator: It is critical that generators are never used inside a home or enclosed workplace area as the emissions can cause asphyxiation. The heat from the generator or a faulty connection to your home's power supply can also cause fire damage, which would not be covered as this would likely be deemed as negligence.
3. Test your alarm system: During load shedding, alarm power packs and batteries may wear out faster. This may also cause alarm systems to produce false alarm signals or even malfunction altogether. Many insurance policies require that you perform an annual or bi-annual alarm system check, which must be logged by your security company. Failure to do so could impact your claim, Colman warns.
4. Install reserve power: 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 six to eight hours when the power goes out, load shedding dramatically decreases a battery's lifespan.
5. Secure your premises: Not only will this reduce the risk of the theft occurring, but it will also make the claims process a lot easier in the event that a theft or robbery occurs.
6. Be vigilant: Criminals may see blackouts as an opportune time, Colman says. Keep a torch in your car should you arrive home in the dark and need to open your perimeter security gate manually.
7. Light up your premises: Using solar power or battery-operated lighting can reduce the chance of opportunistic crime occurring. Keep them fully charged.
8. Review your policies: Check what is covered in the event of loss or damage to the contents of a home or building during a blackout, and speak to your broker about any additional cover you may need.
9. Follow the load shedding schedule: Rather switch off sensitive equipment in a managed and planned way to avoid damage.
10. Hang in there: "We have been through this before, so we know what the risks are and how to mitigate them," says Colman.