Load shedding: 9 ways to protect your property

Cape Town - South Africa’s power utility Eskom has continued to announce varied stages of rotational load shedding which has been taking place round the clock for most parts of South Africa. In the last week, the state utility has been oscillating between Stage 1 and Stage 2. South African residents and business has been impacted by Stage 1, which has seen power go for maximum periods of an hour and a half and stage 2, which trips power for two and a half hours per roll. 

In February 2019, Eskom announced that if it moves to Stage 3, almost 3000MW will need to be rotationally load shed across the country. When the load shedding stages increase, so does the frequency of the rotational power cuts, which has a replica impact in an increased risk of damage to sensitive electronic items due to power surges, fires, and crime as a result of security systems not operating properly.

As a people impacted by these rolling black-outs, South Africans need to mitigate the damages caused by load shedding by being prepared prior to power going off. The reality is that load shedding has an immense impact on household appliances and gadgets that are not switched off when the power outage occurs, and when the power is switched back on, they are hit by a power surge which often damages their appliances. Over and above this, the risk of loss of property is at its peak during black-outs as a result of theft.

Consumers are cautioned to always be vigilant and consider some of the following risk-mitigating strategies:

  1. Ensure that your alarm system is in working condition and the backup battery is fully functional to provide power to the system in the event of load shedding.
  2. Spare torch or headlamp: Keep a torch in your car, if you arrive home at night during a power outage. Most smartphones also have built-in torches or torch apps which come in handy during unexpected power outages.
  3. Emergency contact information: Save emergency contact information on your phone but also keep a paper copy safe and accessible. This should include the emergency services such as the fire department, police, and medical services. Also include contact information of friends and family along with insurance information.  
  4. Charge your cell phone, laptop, and tablet: Ensure your cellphone, laptop and tablet devices are fully charged ahead of scheduled blackouts. Be sure to charge them again as soon as possible after the power returns. It's also a good idea to have an emergency phone charger close by, this comes in handy during extended power outages. Staying connected internet is a great way to keep in touch with what's happening as well as for regular updates, remember to use devices sparingly during outages so that you don't drain the battery completely before the power returns.
  5. Gas for cooking and lighting: Get a small LP gas bottle and lamp. It gives good quality lighting for a large area and can also be used for cooking and boiling water. It's a good idea to keep hot water in a thermal flask so that you can make hot drinks, also consider preparing meals beforehand if you know when there's going to be a scheduled blackout.
  6. Keep bottled water: Keeping emergency water stored is easy when frozen. This frozen bottled water will help keep food cold during a power outage and will also not spoil.
  7. Unplug your cables: Consider any electrical connection as live during a power outage as power can return at any time. Unplug any electronic devices or equipment or switch it off at the wall, including telephone cables. This is due to the surges in power that may occur when electricity is restored.
  8. Make use of surge protection: Electric surges are one of the biggest causes of damage to equipment during a power outage. Installing a surge protection device can help minimize some damage in unforeseen situations. Have a surge protection device fitted to your electrical distribution board or alternatively at the power outlet to the electronic device.
  9. Back up your data: It is always important to back up data, make it a priority to save your data offsite, in case of a hard drive crash or unforeseen electrical fault. Online "cloud-based" backups are very convenient and are mostly automated, which means that you have one less thing to worry about.

Most non-life insurers and brokers remain ready to assist policyholders with any claims resulting from power cuts. Consumers are urged to consult with their brokers or insurer should they be affected by a power surge as most policies provide limited cover for power surges that could be associated with power cuts with the option to increase the cover for power surges at an additional premium.

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