Surviving the next bout of blackouts with adequate cover

By: Indwe Risk Services

Load shedding and insurance

With a bleak power generation outlook, and increased demand during the upcoming colder months, it seems as if load shedding is here to stay.

South Africans are certainly not out of the woods in terms of damages caused by Eskom’s rolling blackouts. While personal belongings and business assets and equipment may have emerged unscathed from the recent power outages, increased risk and damage from load shedding remains an everyday threat.

As the adage goes, prevention is better than cure. But how prepared are you for the next bout of blackouts?

Individuals should be mindful of the risks associated with load shedding in relation to their insurance policies:

 

  • Damage to appliances from surges:

Some policies cover damage to appliances from power surges triggered by lightning and thunderstorms, but not for damage caused by load shedding. Check if your policy covers damage from surges caused by load shedding. Switch off appliances before load shedding is implemented and consider having surge protectors installed by a certified electrician.

 

  • Fire risks:

Insurance cover for fire damage from candles or electrical fires from malfunctioning appliances, will depend on the type of cover taken out by the policyholder. If household goods are damaged, a policyholder cannot claim for fire damage if they only have building insurance. Most house fires are caused by candles that are left to burn or electrical appliances that short-circuit when power comes back online. Be extra vigilant when using candles or anything that could be a fire hazard during load shedding.

 

  • Theft and burglary:

 

The risk of opportunistic theft and burglary is heightened when the lights go out. If a claim is submitted following a burglary, proof will be required that security systems were functioning properly at the time of the incident. If not, and the malfunction is found to be due to negligence, the claim could be rejected. Policyholders should ensure that their alarm system is working properly and has a back-up battery in the event of a power cut.

  • High risks on the road:

Load shedding severely affects traffic flow. No traffic lights means gridlocked traffic, which gives rise to smash and grab threats. Dark roads and intersections increase the risks of vehicle and pedestrian collisions, as well as hijackings. Regardless of what insurance cover you have in place, it is essential to exercise caution when driving during a blackout.

Business owners or operators face similar risks associated with load shedding. Whether electrician, B&B owner, or restaurant franchisee, consider the following risks in relation to your insurance cover:

 

  • Security threats:

 

Load shedding schedules are in the public domain, which means criminals can use them to their advantage to carry out crime in affected areas. Malfunctioning security equipment like alarms and electric fencing could cause a claim to be rejected. Many insurance policies require annual or bi-annual alarm system checks, which must be logged by the security company for approval on full functionality. Failure to do so could impact your claim.

Ensure security systems are in working order, have functioning back-up battery power, and be vigilant about automated access control and who has access to your facilities during blackouts. 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.

 

  • Stock spoiling:

 

Business owners need to be well-informed about cover for perishables and stock in cold storage. Back-up power with automated systems that notify business operators of a power outage, should be implemented to mitigate risk.

 

  • Damage to electronics and machinery:

 

Surges or spikes can cause damage to electronic equipment and machinery. Some insurance policies have surge protection specified as a requirement of cover, so check your policy wording. Unplug sensitive equipment or electronic devices that may be vulnerable to power surges. If your business relies heavily on electrical equipment and machinery, surge protection plugs is a good place to start, and back-up batteries or UPS are good solutions.

  • Fire risks:

A generator with a faulty connection can be a hazard and can therefore affect your claim in the event of a fire, as this will likely be deemed as negligence. Generators that switch on automatically can also pose a risk and need to be carefully managed. Generators should only be installed by qualified electricians who will provide you with an electrical compliance certificate.

These are just some of the risks individuals and business owners face during load shedding. Load shedding can hit anytime and anywhere, so policyholders need to familiarise themselves with their insurance policies to determine what is covered in the event of loss or damage to the contents of their home or building, during a power outage. It is also critical to consult with an expert advisor to assist with insurance cover and in the development of effective risk management to ensure policies provide for the best possible cover.