With the country’s electricity network currently taking heavy strain, load shedding will continue to be a reality for South Africans. Sadly, this means many more months of missing your favourite TV programmes or being left with half-cooked food. But did you know that load shedding doesn’t just affect you, but some of your personal possessions as well? Sudden and prolonged power outages pose a potential threat to your most prized belongings, some of which can be devastating. You are probably taking comfort in your insurance policy to cover any loss and damages; however, you may find that you are not adequately covered for load shedding related risks. When looking for an insurance provider, it’s best to review prices and benefits first to ensure that you will be covered for specific risks. But, as always, prevention is better than cure, therefore the onus is on you to take the necessary safety measures and protect your possessions. Let’s take a brief look at some of the perils of load shedding, what you can do to protect your personal assets and stay claim free.
The worst that can happen in the event of load shedding is a power surge. Power surges are caused by a spike in the electrical current when electricity is suddenly restored to the power lines. This may lead to serious damage such as short-circuit or malfunction in electronic equipment. Devices like your computer, fridge and television are especially vulnerable. The best way to avoid this is to unplug all electronic appliances before a blackout is due and switch them back on after the power supply returns. Additionally, you may also want to install a surge protection device to ensure your appliances are safe from electrical damage.
Everyone will try to find a way around load shedding. Some people will invest in a generator for their home, while others will turn to candles, paraffin lamps and gas stoves to keep things going.
While the last three options are more economical, they pose a safety hazard to your home. According to the Fire Protection Association of South Africa, open flames remain a leading cause of fire outbreaks at home with a total loss of over five thousand homes for 2012. To prevent a fire outbreak at home, keep candles and paraffin lamps away from furniture and plastic, rubber and wooden items. You should also never let small children handle candles and always keep a fire extinguisher around in case something catches fire.
Burglary and theft
Load shedding exposes your property to the possibility of burglary and theft– whether you’re home or not. Criminals can move about unseen in the dark and can easily gain access to your house when your electronic security measures such as the alarm system and electric fence are down. If you don’t want to walk in on an empty TV cabinet where your huge plasma once stood, then it’s wise to have alternative safety measures in place. We suggest backing up the batteries of your alarm system, putting burglar bars in front of windows, making sure your home is locked up, and informing your security company of any issues regarding your security systems. Insurance companies often assess claims to see whether or not damages are in part due to negligence.
When travelling during a power outage, you’re bound to come across traffic lights that are out. Unfortunately, traffic officials cannot always substitute for traffic lights during load shedding so motorists have to take charge at intersections. Now, we know that many people are so eager to get home after a hard day’s work that they sometimes disregard the four way stop rule. This puts you at risk of a collision that can cause minor to severe damage to your vehicle and your possessions inside it. When load shedding occurs at night, street lights are also out. While you can still rely on your car’s headlights to navigate your way home, the lack of adequate light reduces your vision. Not being able to clearly see road signs, potholes and pedestrians can harm your vehicle or others. Preventing structural damage to your car really comes down to defensive driving. Arrive Alive advises motorists to stay alert to the flow of traffic from other directions approaching the intersection, and to drive slowly to avoid possible dangers on the road.
Spoiling food supplies
Everything in your fridge has an expiry date which is accelerated when a power outage strikes. Imagine having to dispose of that salmon you were intending to serve at next week’s dinner party. Consuming spoiled food can have serious health consequences for you and your family. That’s why you should always try to keep your food fresh during the period of load shedding. A good thing to do is to keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed to maintain the right temperature inside, expanding the life of all perishable products.
Sometimes it can be hard to find an item you’re looking for in your house, and during load shedding it can be even harder. When you’re plummeted into sudden darkness, you need to get to the flashlight you keep in the kitchen. And that crack sound you heard while making your way through the darkness, is your R300 headphones which you just stepped on. Or perhaps one of your children didn’t notice the glass of wine you left on the counter – right next to your smartphone! Yes, accidents do happen, especially when we’re faced with the unknown and unseen. As a safety measure, you should always make sure that valuable items are kept away from risk areas such as the floor, couches and the edges of counters.
If you feel as though some of your possessions might be at risk, and you’re not already covered, try our insurance comparison tool to get an idea of how little relevant cover might cost you.