• Athol Smith


The year-end holiday season is upon us yet again. Unfortunately, criminals take no holiday break, and, in fact, this is the time of year when they are most active as people are generally more relaxed and less vigilant than normal. Furthermore, many properties are left unoccupied due to the annual exodus to holiday destinations around the country. So, what does one do to safeguard their properties and possessions?

We believe that a holistic approach to risk management is the solution, involving risk identification, mitigation and finally risk transfer i.e., insurance. Looking at these components separately, the major risks we would typically identify are fire, lightning, water and other weather-related damage and theft. All of these can be covered by having suitable insurance cover in place and this will be discussed further on in this brief article. Risk mitigation consists of taking measures to avoid these risks, as far as is possible, or alternatively, to minimize the consequences should they happen. Examples of this are:

Anti-theft security measures if going away for more than a week –

-Make sure that your burglar alarm, if you have one, is in proper working order and that the battery is in good condition. These are adversely affected by the constant ‘on/off’ cycles caused by load shedding, as are gate motor batteries.

-Arrange with a friend or neighbour to regularly clear your mailbox.

-Fit a few light bulbs with built-in sensors to switch on automatically after dark

-Notify your armed response company, if applicable, to step up patrols during your absence and give them the number of someone to contact in the event of an alarm signal being activated.

-If possible, put TV’s, computers, and other expensive electronic equipment into a secure storeroom with a substantial security gate and barred windows

Measures to minimise lightning/power surge damage –

-Unplug all unnecessary appliances

-Switch off geysers at the electrical distribution board

Measures to minimise storm/water damage –

-Before going away, make sure that gutters and downpipes are cleared of leaves and debris that could cause water to dam up and flow back into the roof void.

-If the house is going to be completely unoccupied, consider turning off the main water supply. Many incidences of flooding take place when houses are left unoccupied for an extended period and a pipe or geyser bursts. If it is necessary to have water (e.g., for the garden or pot plants) for someone looking in from time to time to check on the house, let them know where to turn the supply on and off.

Insurance –

The measures mentioned above are by no means exhaustive but should go a long way towards minimising possible loss or damage. The purpose of Insurance is to indemnify you if, despite having taken reasonable precautionary measures, you still suffer loss or damage. Fire and lightning damage, storm damage and the like are not really affected by your absence on holiday, but theft warrants special mention. The best way to ensure that you are fully covered is to take out All Risks cover on your portable electronic devices such as laptops, call phones, tablets and Play Stations which will then generally be listed on the policy schedule. Jewellery, watches, prescription spectacles and bicycles should also be specified. In addition, Unspecified All Risks covers clothing, luggage receptacles and personal items like handbags, purses, sunglasses, etc. This is the widest form of cover available as it applies to not only theft, but also accidental loss and/or damage and operates on a worldwide basis.

If you have cover on Household Contents without an All-Risks extension, you have limited cover while away for events such as fire and water damage but are not fully protected against theft losses. To extend the cover to your holiday premises, it is important that you notify your broker/insurer of the address, the dates you will be away, and the amount of cover needed. You will then have theft cover, but only provided there is forcible entry into the premises. You would not be covered, for example, for a phone or watch stolen from the beach or a restaurant. In those circumstances it is preferable to leave valuables behind in a locked safe if such is provided at the holiday premises. Failing that, place them in the boot or other concealed luggage compartment of your vehicle and make sure it is locked before leaving it. Most insurers do not cover losses following remote jamming or apply an additional excess, so be aware of that and make sure your vehicle is properly locked before walking away. With our modern-day reliance on cell phones and the need to be always accessible, these will invariably be with you at most times, but do not leave them in view on tables at restaurants as criminals are so brazen that one will divert your attention allowing an accomplice to then steal your phone before you realise it.

Should you need advice on properly covering your property and belongings, speak to your insurance broker – that’s what we are there for.

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