First of the Cape winter storms approaching
Weather-related events such as flooding caused by heavy rains have increased in frequency and severity over the past few years, often leading to damage to property running into billions of rands. There are measures you can take to protect your home, household contents and vehicles from avoidable damage, however, says Guy Denichaud, risk analyst and technical specialist at Santam.
“Even though rainfall figures have remained relatively unchanged over the last 10 to 15 years, the downfall patterns have changed. We are increasingly experiencing large volumes of rain in short time periods. Severe rainstorms and torrential rain cause not only storm damage to property, but also losses due to floods. For example, heavy storms in Kimberley in February this year – where more than 100mm of rain was measured in less than an hour – resulted in flash floods causing extensive damage to houses, vehicles and businesses,” he says.
Denichaud says the Western Cape, which has experienced a particularly dry and windy summer, could potentially be in for a wet winter. “If the province is hit by torrential rains, there is a strong possibility of increased flooding, especially in parched areas denuded of vegetation.”
He says people living near river banks, run-off areas or open-water canals need to take extra precautions to ensure their homes are adequately protected against possible storm damage or flooding. Taking into account applicable municipal by-laws, all South Africans should ensure that their properties are properly maintained to limit potential losses resulting from weather-related events, however. Denichaud provides the following tips:
- Know your risk: When shopping for a home, remember to ask about the flooding history of the area you are buying in, as well of your particular property. It helps to know which potential risks you face beforehand. Remember – the seller (and his or her agents) is obliged by law to divulge any inherent peril attached to the property. Your insurance company should also be able to assist in this regard.
- In the gutter: Check your gutters and downpipes on a monthly basis and before the rainy season starts. Make sure your gutters, drainage ports and sumps are clean and free of debris such as leaves.
- From the rooftops: To prevent storm damage, check your roof sheeting or tiles regularly and inspect screws on asbestos type and iron roofs. They are prone to loosen over time, especially in strong wind. Loose sheeting or broken tiles can be hazardous during stormy, rainy weather.
- Create a diversion: In the event of torrential (and heavy) rain, always try and divert 'runoff' away from your house if possible. Identify areas of potential accumulation and find a solution to redirect excess water. But make sure it goes into the municipal storm water drains, not your neighbour’s property!
- Neighbourhood watch: Check the storm water drains near your home before the rainy season begins. Involve the community in checking that drains are not blocked, and contact your local municipality if they are.
- Slippery slope: If your house is at the bottom of a slope or hill, make sure rain water does not pool around it. Ensure you have a proper drainage system to direct water away from the house by installing downspouts, gutters, trenches or swales. You can also install a French drain. Do not channel stormwater into the sewerage reticulation system unless you have the written permission from the municipality.
- Hole in the wall: Solid boundary walls can dam up water if there is no weep-hole or other outlet to allow water to drain out into the street. Even better would be to erect a palisade fence on the side of your property facing the street.
- Pool preparation: Overflowing swimming pools can create havoc, especially if your property is fairly flat and the pool is close to your home. Ensure that your pool backwash cycles are adhered to in adverse weather, and especially when you are away on holiday.
- Close the gap: Most external doors have a gap at the bottom. Install a metal and rubber flap over the gap to shield your home from water seeping in during heavy storms, as this could weaken the foundation of your floors, wall and door.
- Wood check: Moisture content in hardwood floors and structures tends to make them warp and less durable. Wooden items and floors should be checked before the rainy season and where possible waxed to protect them from moisture.
- Be warned: Sign up for storm and flood warnings via SMS, either from the South African Weather Bureau, or from your insurance company (if they offer this service). Advance warning means you can move your car to a place of safety, disconnect your electricity, move your electronic equipment and take other precautions well ahead of potentially adverse weather.
- Call in the experts: If you have experienced repeated flooding on your property and are at a loss as to what to do, it may be time to obtain engineering advice from a registered professional. Remember – frequent and severe insurance claims resulting from flooding may render your property uninsurable for future loss resulting from flooding. You may also be faced with increased insurance premiums or large deductibles.
Denichaud says in the unfortunate event of your house being flooded, you should do the following:
- Make sure your home is safe to enter and that your family members and pets are not in harm’s way.
- If it is safe to do so, turn off the power at the main distribution board.
- Contact your insurance company. If you are a Santam insurance policyholder, you can phone Santam’s 24/7 SOS and claims line on 0860 505 911.