Cleaning up after flood damage: How to not affect your claim
This past week has seen heavy rains and flash floods in and around Gauteng. The east of Johannesburg, especially, has been hit hard, with damage to cars and homes, and tragically lifes lost. Standard Insurance Limited reports that it has registered nearly 600 claims lodged for damage to cars, homes and buildings since the storms hit.
Those affected by this have to now deal with the aftermath. Faced with this devastation it may be difficult to decide where to even start cleaning up your home. Here are some basic guidelines to follow so that the insurance claims process is not potentially negatively impacted by the cleaning of your home.
- Start cleaning up as soon as you feel up to it. If needed, contact your insurance company to ensure that you are following the correct process. When dealing with damage to property that you are not trained to, such as electric fences, it is best to get professional help.
- Please do not work with any electrical outlets before you are absolutely sure that it is safe to do so.
- If you decide to throw away the damaged goods take pictures of everything so that your assessor can see the extent of the damage when processing your claim. If the items will be stored at your home for some time, store them in a reasonably safe place to avoid further damage to your property.
- Before using any electrical appliances that have come into contact with water have them checked by a professional to ensure they are safe to use.
- Enquire with your insurer if it will cover expenses related to the cleaning process, and if it is covered, ask if there are preferred suppliers. It is also a good idea to take video of the damage and the work progress to make the claim process easier.
Take precautions to remain safe
The South African Weather Service is predicting more heavy weather for today and into the weekend. Whether at home, or travelling in your car, there are some vitally important safety tips to keep in mind.
Denise Shaw, COO of Standard Insurance Limited, want to remind us that the SMS warnings issued by our insurers forewarning of potential heavy weather, should not be ignored. “These notifications should be taken seriously,” she says. “Steps must be taken to secure homes and park cars under cover.”
To protect your home and its contents to the best of your abilities consider the following:
- If possible, make sure computers, TV’s, decoders and other equipment is disconnected from wall sockets to avoid damage caused by electricity surges caused by lightning strikes
- Check that roofs do not have broken or loose tiles that allow the entry of water during heavy downpours.
- Ensure that roof gutters are clean and unclogged. This will prevent water from accumulating and seeping through roof tiles onto ceilings.
- Keep your house windows shut, this reduces the chance of them being hit by hail or shattered by high winds.
If you are caught travelling these are the cautionary measures you should implement:
- Try to avoid being on the road, but if you are, drive slowly and carefully.
- Reduce the speed at which you are travelling to match the road conditions and increase your following distance to at least three-car distance.
- Turn your headlights on so that you can be seen by other vehicles.
- If you can, pull off the road safely and activate your car’s hazard lights as a warning to other motorists.
- Do not park under trees as there is a risk of falling branches and debris.
- Be proactive and ensure that windscreen wipers are always in good, working condition so that they can cope with sudden downpours.
- Never get out of your vehicle in heavy hail storms, this can cause possible injury.
- Do not attempt to drive through water washing across the road, or across low water bridges. Your car could stall in the water and it requires only about 15cm of rapidly moving water to wash a car away.
In worst case scenario, if you do find yourself caught in a flash flood, please remember that no property is worth your life. Move to higher ground and stay there. It is not advisable to enter fast-moving flood water; get to a safe place and stay there until rescue arrives.
Should you be inside of your car when it becomes submerged, expert advice is that remaining calm and breathing normally is your most important and first defense. Unbuckle your seatbelt immediately and then remove your children, if applicable, from their car seats, starting with the oldest. (these tips were adapted from an article first published by ENCA)
Open your windows as soon as you hit the water. If a window needs to be broken use any heavy object you have available to do so.
Did you know?: You seat’s headrest is removable for exactly this use during emergency scenarios. The steal pens can be used to break the window during floods, fires etc.
Continue breathing normally until the water is at chest level, then take a deep breath and hold your nose preparing to exit the car. Swim to the surface as quickly as possible. If you are unsure of which way to swim, look for light or follow bubbles as they will be going up.
Once you reach the surface you might be swept into fast-moving flood water. If this is the case, point your feet downstream and never attempt to go under obstacles, always go over them.
If possible, avoid travelling during heavy storms. Keep your radio on to listen for any weather reports on dangerous situations in your area and avoid them if possible.