Johannesburg - It is crucial that homeowners take a proactive approach to ensure that any power surges resulting from load shedding do not damage household appliances, according to Christelle Fourie, managing director of MUA Insurance Acceptances.
Power surges occur when something boosts the electrical charge at some point in the power lines.
“This causes an increase in the electrical potential energy, which can increase the current flowing to your wall outlet. When this happens, it can cause appliances and other electronic devices to short-circuit, malfunction or even be destroyed – ultimately rendering them unusable,” she said.
Household contents policies generally have cover in place for damage to electrical equipment and appliances as a result of lightening damage, but deliberate withdrawals of power that cause power surges may not be covered.
“Therefore, policyholders are encouraged to ensure that they have additional accidental insurance cover in place to protect against the loss of any items resulting from power surges during the load shedding that South Africa is currently experiencing,” she said.
She pointed out that beyond the increased risk of damage to electrical devices, homeowners could also be made vulnerable due to alarm systems not responding in the event of a burglary.
It is important that policyholders ensure alarm systems are tested on a regular basis.
“Policyholders need to realise it is their responsibility to keep the alarm system in full working condition. If a theft takes place because the alarm was faulty or the back-up battery was flat then the claim is likely to be repudiated. So it is vital to test the system regularly,” she said.
“Should the power go out and the alarm system was in working order, however, this should not affect a claim against a burglary during a blackout. However, not all policies are created equal and we strongly advise you check with your insurer to find out how they will handle these kind of claims.”
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Steps to prevent claims being rejected as a result of a faulty alarm system:
- 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.
- 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.
Insurance companies will assess any home burglary claims to determine whether or not the policyholder regularly secured their home and activated their alarms whenever they went out;
- Fire risks: Many consumers will use candles and other devices to light up their homes during the loadshedding periods in the evenings.
Fourie cautions homeowners to be extra vigilant when using anything that has an increased fire hazard risk.
Homeowners are encouraged to have a fire extinguisher in their homes should a fire break out;
- Be alert: Criminals use loadshedding as the opportune time to undertake illegal activities.
Homeowners need to be extra alert during this time, 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.
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Precautions to avoid damage to appliances:
- Have backup batteries for fences and gates to ensure electric fencing and gates still work during a blackout. It is imperative that backup batteries are installed and maintained;
- Install surge protectors which help to stop the massive sudden flow of energy into household appliances and electronics;
- Unplug appliances: In the event that the power goes out, it is a good idea to unplug any appliance or electronic device that may be vulnerable to the power surges when the electricity comes back on.
Fourie says that while it may not always be possible to determine when loadshedding will take place, consumers can take steps to help reduce the chances of any damage from occurring.
“It is vital that policyholders take the necessary steps to ensure that they are fully protected against any risks of financial loss that could be caused during a blackout,” said Fourie.
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