Load shedding woes present opportunities for criminals
Take steps to protect your loved ones and assets.
As load shedding across the country wreaks havoc in homes, businesses and in the traffic, criminals have not missed the opportunity to capitalise on the compromised security.
Risk advisors and insurance brokers, Aon South Africa, has advised South Africans to put all reasonable measures in place to maintain their security, such as additional battery back-ups and solar lighting, as well as surge protection to protect their electronic assets when the power comes back on.
“The growing constraints on South Africa’s power grid makes load shedding an unwelcome reality that many households and businesses will have to contend with in 2015. While this has many implications, among the most concerning is the fact that power outages compromise safety and security,” says Mandy Barrett of Aon South Africa, a leading provider of risk management services.
In an extended outage, the battery back-up on security equipment such as automated gates and fences, alarm systems, security cameras and outdoor motion passives may run out before power is restored.
The fact that automated gates are not operational presents a further complication during load shedding, in that armed response companies are unable to gain access to the premises. In addition, having to exit your vehicle to open gates to enter your own premises is a very real hijacking risk. In such circumstances it is essential to make use of your armed response to escort you in and out, or at the very least have someone at the gate to open and close it for you immediately. If you need to take your gate off the motor and leave it on manual, make sure you have a lock and chain to secure the gate.
“Criminals are capitalising on the situation, utilising the planned load shedding schedule to plan burglaries or robberies. You could find yourself holding the short end of the stick in such an event, if your insurance coverage terms don’t provide specifically for circumstances that are beyond your control. Consumers may find their claims rejected by insurers if their security system is not functional and they experience a burglary or break-in during a power outage.
“This may well be the case on some insurance programmes, especially where policyholders have not checked the implications of the terms and conditions of their cover. This is where the true value of having a professional broker in your corner comes to bear. A professional broker can add tremendous value in the advice process and guide you towards a thorough understanding of the terms and conditions of your cover, pointing out terms in a policy that applies onerous or unreasonable limitations.
“A broker will fight for you in the event of any unreasonable claim rejection. Unfortunately though, most people only discover the pitfalls of the DIY approach to insurance at claims stage, when it’s too late,” says Mandy.
As part of your preparations for load shedding, it’s essential to check with your broker or insurer exactly what your policy covers you for, should you have a claim as a result of a power failure.
Power surges that bring about a sudden change in voltage can affect computers and electronic equipment that may cause damage, and you need to be sure that your policy provides for this’ not to mention foodstuffs spoiling during extended power outages. If you are unsure, engage the services of a professional broker who is equipped to guide you through the process in order for you to understand the cover and limitations that you have on your insurance policy.
“Make sure you adhere to the specific conditions that insurers include to their cover, to navigate successfully the risks that come with load shedding. As an example, your policy may specify that the alarm has to be armed if your home is left unattended,” said Mandy.
“If these conditions are not adhered to under normal circumstances and a burglary takes place, the client may be subjected to additional compulsory excess payments, claim rejection or the settlement being dramatically reduced. But the key term here is ‘normal circumstances’. This condition should not be applicable if the alarm malfunctions due to a defect or circumstances unknown or beyond the control of the insured – such as an extended power outage. A good broker will be looking out for you in such circumstances and I strongly advise that you check the provisions in your insurance as soon as you can,” Mandy said.
Many commercial and private property owners are investing in renewable energy products such as solar geysers and PV systems in the face of South Africa’s ongoing power woes.
“As a result of recent natural disasters such as the earthquake in 2014, flash floods and freak hail storms, many insurers have taken the stance of not insuring renewable energy products due to the cost of replacing the equipment and the risk it presents; as these products generally cannot withstand a hail storm of the magnitude that South Africa’s been experiencing of late. Therefore it is advisable that you inform your insurance company of any additions of this nature you have made to your home and to confirm whether these additions will be covered by your insurance policy,” urged Mandy.
“The broker’s role is to examine your circumstances in detail and impartially recommend covers that will meet your specific needs. Choice, simplicity of wording and customisation will ensure that your assets are covered adequately and that you are not prejudiced for being pro-active or something you have no control over. Good advice is always a great investment,” concluded Mandy.