Protect your home from storm and fire damage

The last twelve months has seen many parts of South Africa deal with storm and fire related damage, but there are things you can do to mitigate the risk, finds Angelique Ruzicka.

A year ago this month residents in St Francis Bay, a seaside village some 90 kilometres south of Port Elizabeth, dealt with raging fires that left close to 80 houses ruined, while the recent flash floods in Cape Town this month saw Vergelegen MediClinic in Somerset West evacuated after staff and patients were caught in knee-deep water.

Mother Nature can be ruthless and while you may feel powerless in her presence at times there are things you can do to protect your home from fire and storm damage. Santam has offered the following advice to home owners and pointed out several lessons from those previously affected by storms:

 

  1. Ensure your home is not made of flammable materials. Most St Francis Bay residents have rebuilt properties with tiled roofs instead of thatch.
  2. Find out if you are adequately insured against storm and fire damage. “Policyholders are more diligent in ensuring they have the correct cover in place and making sure that they are not under-insured,” says Santam.
  3. If you do have a roof made of flammable material, take precautions. “It has become important to remind clients who live in thatched houses, to take all necessary precautions pertaining to a property of this nature, such as using fire blankets, having fire extinguishers and wherever possible, installing drenchers,” says Santam.
  4. Protect your assets against hail damage before the storm hits. “We have a link to the weather scanners and sent our clients a message to put cars under covers before the hail storms. We had a positive response and found some clients forwarded these messages on to friends and family,” says John Melville, executive head of risk services at Santam.
  5. If you are in a high risk area it is also essential to keep in touch with local fire fighting authorities.
  6. If you are in doubt seek advice. “The role of the intermediary (broker) is to be a touch point, to understand the risks and provide risk management advice for your area. We encourage people to use intermediaries,” says Melville.

 

Moneybags’ top tip:

It is your responsibility to keep your insurer informed of the risk and to maintain your property. Some insurers may reject claims if you have been grossly negligent in maintaining your home, however insurers are equally responsible for treating their customers fairly and there is legislation that’s there to support this. If you have a complaint against an insurer you can lodge with the Ombudsman for Short Term Insurance.