15 February 2021

Flooding on the Cards

Submitted by Teresa Settas

When severe weather becomes the norm

With above normal rainfall[1]predicted for South Africa until April, flooding could be a reality for many South Africans in 2021. In Aon’s Weather, Climate and Catastrophe 2020 Report, flooding was identified as the second largest peril across the globe, following tropical cyclones, with a devastating cumulative economic loss of $1,191bn (R17,674bn). What is even more concerning is the fact that only 17% of losses were insured. 

South Africa is no stranger to the devastating losses of weather catastrophes, and climate change is making its presence felt with extreme and unusual weather patterns. Over the last few days, Tropical Storm Eloise has hit South Africa hard, notably in Mpumalanga, Limpopo and Northern KwaZulu Natal, destroying buildings, homes, crops and displacing thousands of people.

Having a solid understandingof the implications of underinsurance is crucial at a time when many South Africans are financially strained and looking for ways to save on household costs. However, the impact of an outright uninsured loss of a home or vehicle due to the likes of flood or fire can have severe financial and lifestyle consequences.

“In the event of a severe weather event, such as a flood, you will most likely have damage to your household contents and/or the structure of the building; and in a worst case scenario it could even be a total loss. Both these instances could have quite severe financial implications,” says Mandy Barrett of Aon South Africa, a leading global professional services firm and insurance broker.

“We areseeing a trend of properties and assets being under-insured for the replacement costs of the buildings and assets at today’s prices, with many homeowners not having revisited the insured sums since the inception of a policy. Another trend is homeowners who have settled their bond account but have overlooked the fact that their homeowner’s insurance was taken through the bank, rendering the structural cover of the building null and void. It is crucial to reinstate your buildings insurance after closing your bond account,” Mandy urges.

If you are under-insured in the event of a loss, you’re essentially carrying the risk of the uninsured portion on yourself. “You may find yourself in a situation where you are paid partially for a loss at claims stage due to the average formulabeing applied. It means that if your property is under-insured by 40%, for example, then you may only be paid 60% of your claim, regardless of whether it is a partial or total loss,” Mandy explains.

“A well-conceived insurance program is achieved by consulting with an expert broker who can assess your unique needs, risk profile and budget, and tailor-make an insurance offering that gives you peace of mind knowing that your hard-earned assets are safeguarded in the event of a loss and, most importantly, that you’re paying the right price for the right amount of cover,” says Mandy.

Safety tips during flooding conditions 

While there is little that you can do to prevent a flood, there are some important tips that can help protect your personal safety and assets in such freak weather conditions.

Aon provides the following advice:  

On the road:   

  • Take special note of weather warnings and if possible, avoid being on the road or out and about during such times. 
  • If you can, rather avoid driving in heavy downpours.  Treacherous potholes could be hiding in the guise of a puddle. Never attempt to drive through a flooded area of the road – even a few centimetres of water are powerful enough to sweep a car away.  
  • If caught in a flash flood on the road, get yourself to safety as quickly as possible – if you can, get out of the vehicle and get to high ground.  Don’t close all the windows as the water will cause a vacuum and trap you in the car.    
  • Many car accident claims are due to slippery roads and potholes.  Tyre damage is not an uncommon occurrence and is normally not covered by a motor insurance policy unless another part of the vehicle is damaged at the same time.  
  • Check your tyre tread and replace worn tyres - an accident claim could potentially be repudiated if the tread is deemed insufficient to have stopped the vehicle in time.  The legally required minimum tread depth is 1.6mm.   
  • Increase your following distance and reduce your speed to allow enough time to react. 
  • Watch for motorists swerving to avoid objects in the road and be prepared to do the same.   
  • Many traffic lights are out of order during heavy rain, so drive carefully. 
  • Roads may be congested with many tempers fraying, keep your cool. 

Tips for home:   

  • Your homeowner’s insurance policy will cover any damage to the structure of the building as a direct result of freak rainstorms but will not cover maintenance-related damage. This means that while your insurance will respond by repairing the damage caused by a leaking roof, it will not cover the repair of the roof’s waterproofing if it deteriorated due to a lack of maintenance.   
  • If you are faced with flooding of your property, try to move as many of your belongings as you can out of the water – the longer the water is left sitting, the more damage it causes. Try and clear away as much of the water as you possibly can to prevent further and permanent damage. 
  • Half a meter of paving along the perimeter of a building can help with damp problems. 
  • Keep gutters clear of debris to facilitate proper drainage around the house.  Protect inlet/outlet pipes of any drains and storm water drainage against blockage from debris.   
  • Check the waterproofing and flashings on the roof on a regular basis. 
  • Install lightning rods along the outside of the house if your area is prone to lightning strikes and fit plugs with surge protection.   

“Discuss your motor, household and business insurance with your broker to make sure you are comprehensively covered for such eventualities.  The growing risks presented by our changing weather patterns demands that you review your needs in detail and get impartial and professional advice to ensure your cover meets those needs,” Mandy concludes. 

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