The latest bout of load shedding could be devastating for South Africans, especially if not insured.
This post was published on 11 Apr, 2019

Tips for households and businesses to alleviate against damage caused by load shedding

  • Unplug appliances and sensitive equipment
  • Be vigilant
  • Secure your premises
  • Review your insurance policies

As South Africa is plunged into darkness due to the latest round of load shedding, this could have severe implications for both households and businesses. Make the wise choice and take out insurance to protect yourself, or if you already have insurance, make the effort to familiarise yourself with the unique wording in your policies to make sure that any insurable events are covered in the event of a power outage.

The country suffered rolling blackouts in March, after the state-run utility, Eskom - which generates more than 90% of the country’s electricity, lost additional generating capacity following a recent cyclone in neighbouring Mozambique, which damaged electricity imports. Eskom was forced to implement load shedding stage 4. About 4000 megawatts were removed from the grid to replenish water and diesel supplies at units designed to generate more electricity.

When you have insurance, you are able to replace your assets should they be damaged during the course of load shedding. It is also important to check if you have the correct cover in place and that all the necessary precautions are taken to protect your valuable assets. Insurance policies are all different, so it is vital to take the necessary steps in order to reduce the risk of financial loss resulting from blackouts. This includes making sure that you have the correct insurance cover for your needs, as well as enough cover to insure the required value of your assets.

According to our latest data, most load shedding claims have previously been for items that may not necessarily be covered by an insurance policy in all circumstances. Claims are typically for things like spoiled food; the spoiling of refrigerated stock in trade; and damage to appliances or sensitive equipment due to a sudden power surge.

Tips for households and businesses to alleviate against damage caused by load shedding

We have compiled a detailed list of tips and advice to help both households and commercial customers take proactive steps to mitigate the risk of possible damage or loss as a result of power outages:

1. Sensitive equipment and appliances should be unplugged:
It is always a good idea to unplug appliances or any other sensitive equipment or electronic devices that may be vulnerable to power surges. The list of items that could be affected include cell phones, laptops, desktop 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. It is advisable that commercial clients install inverters to power critical equipment such as cash registers and point of sale equipment as well as UPS protection or surge protection on sensitive electronic equipment.

2. Take good care of 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. Ensure that generators are installed by qualified electricians and that they issue you with an electrical compliance certificate. Generators that switch on automatically can also pose an increased risk and must be carefully managed.

3. Always test your alarm system:
Alarm power packs and batteries may wear out faster during load shedding, this could reduce their functionality. It may also cause alarm systems to produce false alarm signals or to malfunction altogether. Most insurance policies require that you perform an annual or bi-annual alarm system check, which must be logged by your security company to ensure that it is in proper working order and that the battery is still functional. Failure to do so could impact your claim. You should also ensure that all alarm peripherals have fresh batteries if a wireless alarm system is being used.

4. Install reserve power:
To ensure that electric fencing and gates still work during load shedding, reserve batteries should be installed and maintained. Most reserve batteries generally last for six to eight hours when the power goes out, load shedding drastically decreases a battery’s lifespan, so it is incredibly important to test these or replace them, especially if you are planning to go away for holidays. Backup batteries are particularly important for commercial premises as their alarm systems typically require more power which necessitates the use of heavy-duty batteries. Clients with stock that requires continuous cold storage should consider installing back-up generators with an automated system that informs them of a power outage so that mitigating steps can be taken.

5. Make sure your premises are secured:
Should the power go out, homeowners and commercial building owners need to make sure that their properties are locked up and adequately secured to reduce the risk of opportunistic theft. 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. Extra vigilance:
 The downside to having load shedding timetables open to the public is that criminals unfortunately may use the power outages as an opportunity to undertake illegal activities. Be extra vigilant, particularly when arriving at or leaving your home or commercial premises in the evening. Keep a torch in your car for when you get home in the dark and need to open your perimeter security gate manually.

7. Use light in your premises:
 Be sure to keep all your solar lighting fully charged. Using solar power or battery-operated lighting to light up your premises can reduce the chance of opportunistic crime occurring.

8. Review your insurance policies:
 Read the wording in your policies to see what is covered in the event of loss or damage to the contents of a home or building during a blackout. Policyholders are advised to speak to their insurance brokers about any additional cover that may be needed.

9. Check the load shedding schedule:
Rather switch off sensitive equipment in a managed and planned way, particularly if you know that your area is likely to experience load shedding at a particular time. Some equipment that uses heat in the manufacturing process (e.g. plastic extrusion) can be damaged if not switched off properly.

10. Remain positive:
We have been through this before, so we know what the risks are and how to mitigate them. All we need to do now is buckle down and execute to mitigate the impact on our lives and businesses.

The latest bout of load shedding could be devastating for South Africans, especially if not insured.

 Old Mutual Insure Press Release

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