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Households still insured even if alarms fail due to electricity blackouts

06 February 2008 Santam

Alarm systems that fail to respond to a burglary because of power failure, would not affect the claim, as long as the system was in working order before the failure.

So says Caroline Da Silva, Head of Portfolio Management at Santam who has reassured policyholders not to fear that their claims for possible burglaries incurred during the current spate of electricity blackouts would not be paid out.

Santam says that policyholders should ensure their alarm systems and their back up batteries are in working order, but even if it fails to respond to a possible intruder during blackouts, policyholders would still be covered for the losses incurred.

She says the general rule of whether businesses or consumers will be covered as a result of electricity blackouts is whether the interruption was caused by damage as a result of a specific peril named in the policy such as fire, lightening or impact.

“The recent power cuts have not been due to a peril but the result of load shedding, a deliberate withholding of power from certain areas for short periods of time to prevent system overload.

“Santam’s personal and business policies don’t cover situations where power is deliberately withheld by the provider or where the interruption is a result of utilities being unable to supply sufficient power (intentional power cuts, i.e. load-shedding). This exception applies to most personal as well as business policies. This therefore may impact on how insurers respond to, for example, loss of goods from freezers. These are not covered in the event of deliberate withdrawal.

“However, if the client has purchased accidental damage cover and a fridge or freezer is damaged as a result of a power surge or spike then the damage to the unit will be covered.

“Computers will also be covered for power surges, if the client has bought all risks cover for electronic equipment. In addition, pool pumps and gate motors that burn out as a result of a surge will also be covered if the client has specifically taken out optional accidental insurance for these items.”

According to Da Silva a business interruption policy would in a hypothetical situation pay out, where for instance, power to an insured's factory is interrupted following, say, a lightning strike at a power supplier, or a fire at a sub-station, such as Johannesburg's Hurst Hill which was down for three days two years ago following a fire, resulting in loss of profit and refrigerated stock for businesses.”

For businesses that are really reliant on power supply, cover is available, called Public Utilities cover, which extends the above cover beyond specific perils like lightening and fire, to mechanical and electrical breakdown which results in the interruption of power supply. “There are two important things to consider here, the first is that when the loss is as a result of mechanical or electrical breakdown at the supplier, cover only kicks in once the power is down for 24 hours or more, some policies may even specify 72 hours of interruption before they will pay out. The second is that these policies also exclude deliberate withdrawal of power by the supplier so load shedding would not be covered.

“We encourage policyholders to contact their insurance brokers if they are unclear about their exact cover. But our clients can rest assured that we will evaluate all claims individually, taking into account claimants’ specific circumstances”.

In order to help businesses and consumers minimise their possible losses caused by the electricity blackouts, Santam has put together this handy list:

  • Lightening and surge protection products can protect your PC, pool pump, gate motor and other electronic items to reduce the risk of burnout.
  • Check the battery of your alarm system and other stand-by items such as your electronic garage doors.
  • Ensure that all computerised appliances have surge arrestors.
  • Don't open and close the fridge when the power is off, it helps the contents to remain cooler for longer if it stays closed.
  • Be careful when using gas heaters.
  • Ensure that you acquire fire extinguishers to limit possible losses caused by fires.
  • If you purchase a generator, ensure that it is fitted by a qualified technician according to the prescribed standards.

Santam enables clients to take control of their risks through a customised risk management solution which offers more than 94 000 suppliers, including lightening and surge protectors. Please contact your broker who will be able to provide more information on this offer with discounts of up to 30% or phone 0822 333 444.

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