Extreme weather conditions predicted for first quarter warns Insurance Association

06 February 2019 South African Insurance Association

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Climate Services Centre Bulletin released in the second half of 2018 forecasts a normal to below normal October 2018-March 2019 rainfall season, while also pointing to a possibility of a debilitating dry spell punctuated by uneven rainfalls with sudden heavy rains that can lead to flooding and destruction of property and infrastructure.

The concern for the non-life insurance sector is obviously two-fold. The first concern is the possibility of a prolonged dry spell or heavy floods that could lead to reduced agricultural yields and catastrophic losses for the farming community, and the second concern will be the possible destruction of property and infrastructure as a result of floods.

The South African Insurance Association (SAIA) would like to highlight, as reported in the Bulletin the possibility of early-onset rains, false starts to the season and prolonged dry spells, which could disturb the temporal and spatial distribution of rains at least until March this year.

The first quarter forecast, as predicted by SADC Climate Services Centre, is for normal to below-normal rainfall over the southern part of the region and normal to above-normal rainfall over the central parts.

Agriculture, Food Security, Livestock and health

“The potential for normal rainfall presents an opportunity for good agricultural performance, while the possibility of below-average rainfall presents risks that require preparedness and contingency planning,” says Nico Esterhuizen, SAIA General Manager: Insurance Risks.

Potential risks to the agricultural sector include limited water availability, poor grazing conditions, heat stress to crops and livestock, as well as more fires due to high temperatures.

The 2018/19 season also presents a good opportunity to maximize agricultural production, particularly in areas that normally receive good rainfall.

“From a crop production perspective, farmers can comprehensively utilise the forecast by committing a portion of their arable land to medium-to-late maturing and high-yield crop varieties. Farmers are encouraged to stagger their planting dates in consultation with extension and meteorological services,” says Esterhuizen.

The forecast also presents an opportunity for the Agro-Forestry sector, as the normal rains expected will allow for tree planting and reforestation in relevant areas. Increased investment in irrigation is encouraged. Some water reservoirs and irrigation systems need to be rehabilitated to improve and maximise irrigation in farming activities. Likewise, the use of water harvesting technologies should be intensified to fully utilise rains and reduce the negative impacts of dry spells.

In the worse-case scenario, drought and dry spells may lead to food insecurity and displacement of people and wildlife. In some localities, destruction of property and infrastructure, and interrupted access to basic social services such as schools, health facilities and markets, may occur because of extreme weather events (floods, heatwaves, hailstorms and wildfires).

Property and Infrastructure

These types of events can be traumatising for consumers, as soon as the damage occurs, do what you can, take pictures and document everything. In addition to documenting initial damage, policyholders should do what they safely can to secure their home or business against the elements.

Contact your insurer or broker to report the damage and the correct process to follow when placing a claim. When the loss is happening things can be a little chaotic. What you need to remember is you have a few responsibilities as things are happening or have just happened and you need to do them in the order that makes the most sense to keep yourself safe in the process. Aside from calling the insurance company or your broker right away, this is what you have to do:

1. Prevent further loss, only if it is safe for you and those that are assisting you.
2. Salvage any items you can.
3. Photograph and videotape the damage as soon as you can to provide this as additional proof of loss.
4. Do not throw anything away. The insurance company may request to see the items before they process the claim.

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