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Alarm systems at risk due to loadshedding

Following Eskom's confirmation that South Africa will face ongoing loadshedding for the next few months, homeowners have been warned of the increased burglary risks due to alarm systems not responding in the event of a power cut.

This is according to Christelle Fourie, Managing Director of MUA Insurance Acceptances, who says that it is important that homeowners take extra steps to ensure that their homes are fully protected should their alarm or security monitoring systems stop working. "To reduce the risk of a home burglary and possible claim repudiations,policyholders should have their alarm systems tested on a regular basis."

She says that it is important for all homeowners to realise that it is their responsibility to keep the alarm system in full working condition. "If a theft takes place because the alarm was faulty or the back-up battery was flat then the claim is likely to be repudiated, so it is vital to test the system regularly. 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."

In a recent interview on Radio 702, Senior Assistant Ombud at the Short Term Insurance Ombudsman, Peter Nkhuna stressed that, in addition to taking precautionary security measures, homeowners also need to ensure that they have adequate insurance cover in place to protect them from possible insurance claim repudiations.

Fourie recommends that all homeowners take the following steps to reduce their security risks during a power outage:
  • Review insurance policies: Homeowners need to review their insurance policies to see what is covered in the event of loss or damage to the home or its contents during a blackout. Policyholders are advised speak to their insurance brokers about any additional cover that may be needed.
  • Test the alarm system: Policyholders are advised to test the system regularly by activating it on purpose; ask your alarm company to service the system on a bi-annual basis; and switch the electricity off to see if the battery is in a working condition.
  • Backup batteries for fences and gates: To ensure that electric fencing and gates still work during a blackout, it is imperative that backup batteries are installed and maintained. Most back-up batteries generally last for 6-8 hours when the power goes out. However, loadshedding dramatically decreases a battery's lifespan, so it is incredibly important that these are tested or replaced, especially if the policyholder is planning on going away over the holidays.
  • Secure your home: In the event that the power goes out, homeowners are advised to ensure that their homes are locked up and adequately secured, in order to reduce the risk of a home burglary. "Insurance companies will assess any home burglary claims to determine whether or not the policyholder regularly secured their home and activated their alarms whenever they went out."
  • Generators: While many homeowners will be purchasing generators, it is critical that these are never used inside the home or an enclosed area. Generators produce carbon monoxide, which can be fatal if inhaled. Generators should also be installed by a qualified electrician, who will be able to find the safest place to install this and will also be able to evaluate the house's electrical system for proper grounding and polarity and to ensure extension cords are installed correctly.
  • Be alert: Criminals use loadshedding as the opportune time to undertake illegal activities. "Homeowners need to be extra alert during this time, particularly when arriving or leaving the home in the evenings. Keep a torch in your car should you arrive home in the dark and need to open your perimeter security gate manually."
  • Light up the home: To ensure that the home is well lit during a power outage, policyholders are encourage to install solar power or battery operated lights. In addition, rechargeable torches and lights should also be kept in the home and car.

Fourie says that unfortunately the loadshedding time tables are well known to the public and criminals can target certain risks as a result. "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% increase) over the reporting period between April 2013 to March 2014."

She explains that the crime stats are a good indicator of the increased risk that homeowners will face, especially with the loadshedding over the festive season. "Homeowners are most at risk during the night time when it is dark and easy for people to move around without being seen. It is a very high risk situation and we urge homeowners to consider installing burglar proofing, as well as security gates to serve as back-up when electricity is down for extended periods of time."

"It is vital the policyholders take the necessary steps to ensure that they are fully protected against any risks of financial loss that could be caused during a blackout," concludes Fourie.
 
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