Santam sends out fire warning for upcoming summer months

13 November 2012 Santam

Insurer ready to assist Eastern Cape policyholders with prompt claims handling process

This weekend, fire fighters battled for hours with a raging blaze in St Francis Bay, Eastern Cape, which damaged an estimated 81 homes. While the exact cause of the fire has not been confirmed, it is alleged to have started at a local holiday resort where it is believed a group of people were having a braai. The fire, fanned by strong winds, moved through the canals of the town devastating all the homes in its wake.

While it is too early to estimate the total cost of the weekend Eastern Cape fire, Santam expects claims to run into the millions of rand, underscoring the need for insurance protection to free policyholders from vulnerability to sudden disasters caused by man and nature.

“We're ready to assist our policyholders in the area with urgency and efficiency,” says Attie Blaauw Head of Personal Lines Underwriting at Santam. “Without proper insurance cover, extreme or catastrophe events can often result in a financial strain for the affected family and heavy strains on what could be a financial investment. Consumers must ensure they have the proper cover. The health of the South African economy depends on it.”

It is important for homeowners to know what it is exactly they are covered for as well as the extent of their insurance cover. They also should ensure that their property is covered for the correct amount.

“Comprehensive personal property insurance includes structural cover and cover for the contents of your home. The first part of the cover protects the house itself, or in other words, the actual building. This covers things like the walls, roof, windows, geysers against certain perils such as lightening, fire, hail, vandalism, storms etc. The second part of the cover insures the contents of your home such as major appliances, furniture, jewellery and clothes,” says Blaauw.

The insurer says that when it comes to fire risk, it is equally important to disclose whether your home, property or structure has a thatched roof. An insurer will usually carry out an inspection of a thatched home before it agrees to cover the property. “Most insurers will check what fire prevention and safety measures are in place to protect your home or property as once a fire takes hold in a thatched property, it usually spreads quickly and often causes extensive damage. This also applies for businesses such as lodges which often have thatched roofs,” cautions Blaauw.

Blaauw continues to say that it crucial for policyholders to adopt risk mitigating behaviour, which can save lives and assets. “It is unfortunate that what started out as a summer pastime such as braaing ended up with so many people destitute and all of their belongings demolished,” says Blaauw.

Many sources in the home such as electrical faults, improper maintenance and seemingly innocuous activities such as cooking, heating, children handling lighters or matches and open flames from grills or braai stands can lead to fires.

“We advise people to take extra care during the upcoming summer months for increased fire risks as temperatures soar and strong winds prevail. What this weekend’s incident also demonstrated is that a fire needs a very small opportunity to start,” says Blaauw.

The short-term insurer says people can take these simple steps to reduce or eliminate the risk of fire:

  • Check the electrical wiring of your home.
  • Make sure that you do not overload power points and that you switch off appliances from the plug point when they are not in use.
  • Ensure that your fire extinguisher has been serviced or in working condition.
  • Clean the lint filter of your tumble dryer each and every time you use it.
  • Never smoke in bed.
  • Ensure that cigarettes are carefully extinguished before you discard them; and never throw cigarette butts out the car window.
  • Always keep lighters and matches away from children.
  • Take extra care when using open fires. If you have a gas, electric braai or grill, always check that is in safe working order before lighting it. Always ensure that the grill is in the safe care of a responsible adult when in use.
  • Never dry clothes on a heater or near a fire.
  • If you live in a bushfire prone area, keep the ground around your home clear of leaves and other litter.
  • Remember to take extra care with any stored chemicals and fuels, especially those stored in the garage or tool shed.

Blaauw also stresses the importance of a broker: “A broker can lodge the claim on behalf of the policyholder especially during a stressful time such as this, when the last thing a person wants, who has just lost a home, is to deal with an insurance claim.”

The insurer says it is also crucial for people to keep their records up to date and to keep copies of important documents so that in the event of a fire these are easily available. “This will ultimately contribute to streamlining the claims process,” says Blaauw.

Santam policyholders that have been impacted by the St Francis Bay fire can contact Santam’s 24/7 SOS Emergency and Claims line to register a claim.

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