The news that load shedding could be with us for some time makes it more important than ever to safeguard belongings by taking practical steps to ensure that homes are secured against potential opportunistic thieves, says Mr Shakeel Ebrahim, Head of Operations at Standard Insurance Limited.
The major risk to homeowners during periods of controlled power outages is the loss of backup battery power between homes and security companies, says Mr Ebrahim.
“Homeowners should check the status of their alarms and backup batteries. There should be enough power in a system’s batteries to last a few hours beyond the hours that a planned outage is due to be in force. Failure to do so could make homes vulnerable to opportunistic thieves who know that certain areas will be without electricity during certain hours.”
“Making sure that systems are working effectively is made more important by the fact that we are entering the traditional year-end holiday period when many people are away from home.A home security system is the first defence against losses, andit should, therefore, be working optimally before the family leaves on holiday.”
The insurance cover accorded to homeowners could vary. Therefore, as an additional precaution, consumers should also check the terms of their short-term insurance policies regarding a theft from premises.
“If you are living on a freestanding property and the policy requires that it be secured by an alarm, failing to have a system properly connected and operating effectively could impact on claims that are lodged if a loss occurs.”
“It is common practice for insurance companies to contact alarm companies to check the operating status of alarm systems when a claim is lodged. If the alarm was not correctly set, or if there was a history of a battery failing consistently and not being replaced, it could impact a claim.”
Checking to see if a backup battery is ready for periods of load shedding is easy says Mr Ebrahim. He advises that:
• If you are at home when an outage occurs that you activate the alarm as though you were absent when the outage began. If the battery is faulty, most alarm systems should automatically send a weak battery message to their security company.
• Soon after a weak battery signal alert is sent, the alarm system typically then shut down. This varies from system to system. This can easily be checked by viewing the alarm control panel. If there are no warning lights visible, this means that the system is inoperative.
• If the alarm system does not have that function, monitoring the alarm control panel from when the electricity goes off periodically until the alarm system goes off completely, will give you an indication of how long the battery will last during a power outage.
• If this occurs before the outage is terminated, it may be time to get a new battery.
• Speak to your alarm or Security company for other options that may be available to you.
“Of course, you could also set the alarm and then switch off power at the mains, simulating an outage to get the same information,” he says
Knowing just when there is going to be no electricity can also help prevent potential damage to appliances, adds Mr Ebrahim.
“When power is reinstated there can be a power surge. Quite simply, this means that the power coming through the system can exceed the 220 volts of AC current that is provided. These short-lived surges can damage sensitive appliances. The easiest way to avoid this is to unplug computers and sensitive equipment when load shedding begins and plugging them back in once power is restored.”
Eskom also advises that:
• Portable modems or computer ‘dongles’ can be used to ensure that Internet connectivity is maintained during an outage.
• Phones, tablets and laptops are fully charged ahead of an outage
• UPS devices are installed to act as backup batteries for PCs.
• That in addition to alarms, facilities like electric gates have backup batteries checked and connected.
• Surge protection plugs are installed on essential appliances. This assists not only during load shedding but also protect household items during fierce electrical storms when lightning strikes can cause power surges.
“Safeguarding your home and appliances during controlled power outages is simple and not that expensive. The effort and small cash outlay will pay dividends not only during this holiday season but every day of the year,” says Mr Ebrahim.