Top Tips to Keep the Holidays Festive and Your Assets Safe

The holidays are approaching at pace and most of us cannot wait for some much-needed R&R. Before you head out for that much-needed break, take a little time to make sure that your hard-earned and precious assets are correctly insured and secure – this is especially important as aspects such as loadshedding and water outages can put a spanner in the works of even the best laid holiday plans.

Mandy Barrett of insurance brokerage and risk advisors, Aon South Africa, offers a handy pre-holiday checklist to make sure your quality R&R time is not unpleasantly interrupted. “Prevention is better than cure, and a checklist ensures that nothing slips through the cracks. With sound planning, you’ll be ready to enjoy the holidays with the peace of mind that your home and everything in it is secure,” says Mandy.

Aon South Africa offers the following insurance and risk management tips to keep the holidays festive and your assets safe:

•    Switch your electric geyser off if no-one will be home during the holidays, BUT if you have a solar geyser or heat pump, check with your qualified installer first before switching anything off – some systems have built-in ‘holiday protection’ and ‘anti-boil functions’ and in some instances switching your system off can cause overheating and damage to your system.
•    If your geyser drains when you have a water outage, it is very likely that your element may burn out as it will continue to heat even in the absence of water. It is important to check with a qualified electrician that your geyser has vacuum breakers on its outlets to prevent the geyser from running dry during a water outage. Remember that extended load shedding also impacts water supply and pressure – so make plans to mitigate the risks should this occur while you are away.
•    Remember to check and close any faucets and water outlets if there is a break in your water supply, as any open taps could potentially cause flooding.
•    Check that the battery back-up on your alarm, electric fencing, irrigation and other programmable appliances is working and that you have sufficient battery back-up time to see you through an outage.  If need be, replace your back-up batteries with deep cycle batteries that are better able to cope with prolonged outages and higher stages of load shedding.
•    Keep a spare key with you for your electric gate motor and know how to override your electric gate to gain access to your property if necessary. Be on alert for opportunistic crime – don’t leave your car running in the driveway while you’re occupied with the gate.  Get someone at home to open and close immediately behind you.  Better still, arrange with your armed response company to see you in and out of your premises.
•    Power surges spell disaster for sensitive equipment such as computers/laptops, TVs, fridges, sound systems and so on. Leave appliances unplugged when not in use and have good quality surge protection at all plug points. Better still, get a qualified electrician to install surge protection onto your main distribution board. Some insurance policies have surge protection specified as a requirement of cover, so check your policy wording.
•    Empty your fridge/freezer of perishables if you are going away on holiday – there is nothing worse than coming home to deteriorated contents due to a power surge or tripped switch.
•    Have emergency lighting on hand for any outages and make sure its fully charged for when you need it.  Be especially careful with gas lamps and open flames which pose a serious fire risk. Consider installing lights with timers or solar/battery back-up that come on automatically when it gets dark.
•    Given just how unpredictable the loadshedding and power outages are, consider appointing a reputable housesitting service or trusted neighbour/friend to keep tabs on your property and to switch on lights, clear post boxes of mail, water plants and put out rubbish bins on collection day – and to let you know if there’s a problem. The last thing you need is for your power to trip and have no electricity to your property and security systems for days on end.
•    Brief anyone who is looking after your home during the holidays on safety issues surrounding any alternative energy solutions that you may have in and around your home such as Uninterrupted Power Supplies (UPS), generators or photovoltaic (PV) systems; for example: Running the generator outdoors and not in the house.

Be Crime-Aware

Crime is on the rise as criminals look to exploit the vulnerabilities of power outages and the impact this has on safety and security measures, as well as the holiday season while your home may be unattended:
•    Remain vigilant of your surroundings, especially if you need to get out of your vehicle to manually open a motor gate and so on. If need be, contact your security company to assist you. Give these details to anyone who may be housesitting while you are away.
•    Arm your alarm, even if the power is out and make sure you have battery back-up on alarms and electric fences. Criminals also have access to loadshedding schedules and plan their activities around these intervals.
•    Physically check your vehicle doors when parked in public spaces to ensure that your doors are locked and that no-one has jammed your locking signal.
•    Cell phone snatching is also on the increase. Be careful when using your phone in public spaces.
•    Remain vigilant even at your holiday destination, as criminals will take advantage of your relaxed state of mind.
•    Make sure that you have emergency numbers loaded on your phone, both at home and at your holiday destination.
•    If you are making use of a reputable housesitting service, ensure that they are aware of safety and security measures in your home and any emergency numbers they could potentially need while in your home.

“With a little planning, attention to your surroundings and security precautions, you can mitigate a lot of risk. With our fast-paced lifestyles and the demands made on our time during the year, make sure your checks and balances are done and that your insurance policies are current and up to date so that the only thing you need to worry about this holiday is your rest and relaxation. Don’t leave this important planning for the last minute. Once sorted, all that remains is to have the happiest of holidays,” concludes Mandy.

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