Reports of poorly maintained alarm systems breaking down due to power outages have swept the nation from Cape Town to Pietermaritzburg.
Christelle Fourie, managing director of MUA Insurance Acceptances, said it was crucial that homeowners take a proactive approach to ensure that any power surges resulting from load shedding did not damage household appliances.
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.”
Fourie said that household contents policies generally had cover in place for damage to electrical equipment and appliances as a result of lightning damage, but deliberate withdrawals of power that caused 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.”
Homeowners could also be made vulnerable because of alarm systems not responding in the event of a burglary, she said.
“The latest South African Crime Statistics released by the South African Police Service, revealed an increase in robberies at residential premises from 17 950 to 19 284 (7.4 percent increase) over the reporting period between April last year to March this year.
“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,” Fourie said.
Simon Colman, Underwriting Executive at SHA Specialist Underwriters, said businesses and commercial property owners failed to realise the possible liability that may arise from these blackouts, which could be put upon their shoulders.
“As load shedding becomes a regular occurrence, businesses and property owners may be unable to pass the proverbial buck,” he said.
“They may have to accept that due to the reoccurrence and predictability of the outages, it may be found that there may have been reasonable precautions that should have been taken to protect their own customers from losses and injuries.”
Colman referred to “The Elevator Model” which says that businesses must adopt the worst-case scenario from a risk perspective, assuming that they will be solely accountable for injuries and losses.
“For example, an elevator should be designed in such a way that if the power fails, it does not crash to the ground. This ‘elevator’ thinking, is the way in which businesses and property owners operating in an erratic power environment, should be dealing with risk.
“For example, shopping mall owners and managers should have contingency measurements in place to ensure that customers can safely evacuate their premises during a sudden blackout,” he said.
“Failure to ensure that walkways, steps, escalators, doors, parking facilities, fire escapes, and other areas are well-lit (either by generator, solar or battery operated) and free from any obstruction may result in the property owner/business owner being found liable for any injury caused to a customer during evacuation.”
Surges cause gate motors and garage door motors to be damaged. Call us to arrange an assessment and install a UPS back-up for your system. We have a range of options available to suit your pocket.
*Adapted from an article by Henry du Plessis on IOL