Adopting preventative measures will minimise costly flood damage to property and vehicles.
Last year, flooding in seven South African provinces cost the country around R160 billion in economic losses, according to the Department of Social Development. In the same year, Namibia had the heaviest rainfall in 120 years, Australian losses from Storm Yasi incurred economic losses of $20 billion and insured losses of $4 billion, and flooding in Thailand cost the country more than $30 billion.
There is no doubt that we are living in times of unprecedented climate risk. 2011 was the costliest year for natural disasters in recorded history, and the second costliest year in the history of the insurance industry, and as the mechanism by which society pools its risk, the insurance sector plays a critical role in helping society adapt to a changing climate and to mitigate personal risk.
Heavy rains have already hit areas in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal. The South African Weather Service warned this week that heavy rain will continue to fall in large parts of the country until June. South Africans should take extra precaution to safeguard assets and valuables during this time.
Heavy rains can cause damage running into billions of rands, but there are measures that can be taken to protect buildings, household contents and vehicles from avoidable damage.
“In January last year, damage to homes, property and vehicles caused by flooding ran well into the multi-million rand mark, affecting many insured South Africans.”
Limit losses by taking the following precautions.
IN THE CAR
Road Worthy: Before you drive off in wet or heavy rain conditions, make sure that your headlights, tail lights, brake lights and indicator lights are working properly. Also check that your windscreen wipers are in good condition and replace them if they’re frayed, brittle or damaged.
Slow Down: It takes longer to stop or react to road conditions in wet conditions. Give yourself more time to react to dangerous conditions and use the two second rule to maintain a safe following distance
Mind the bends: Change to a lower gear before you take a bend. Reduce your speed and make sure it is at its slowest when you enter the bend. Ensure that both your hands are on the steering wheel.
Middle of the road: Drive in the middle lane whenever possible when it’s raining. Water pools more in the outside lanes because of lower drainage, making driving conditions there more dangerous. Also avoid making quick lane changes as this increases the chance of your car’s wheels skidding on top of water.
In the deep end: Attempting to drive through deep water can cause damage to the electronic system of your vehicle. Never drive over a bridge that has moving water covering it. Take care, too, of driving through puddles as they could be deeper than you imagine and could be very dangerous. If you have to drive through a puddle, go especially slowly. Turn around if the water reaches the bottom of your car doors and find another route. If you get submerged too deeply, your engine will stall and water might enter your engine through your air intake forcing you to replace it.
Braking Point: Once you have navigated out of the heavy rain conditions, make sure to test your brakes as they may be saturated. Brakes can only be dried out by the heat generated from driving very slowly and braking lightly at the same time.
In the gutter: Check your gutters and downpipes on a monthly basis and before the rainy season begins. Make sure your gutters are clean and free of debris such as leaves. This protects the roof, walls and foundations of your home from water damage. When fitting gutters, homeowners must make sure they are of the highest quality so as to withstand increased water flow during thunder. It is also crucial to replace any missing gutters so that water doesn’t collect near the foundation of your house and ensure that gutters direct water away from the house.
From the Roof tops: Check your roof sheeting or tiles regularly and inspect screws on asbestos type and iron roofs as they are prone to loosen over time. Loose sheeting or broken tiles are especially hazardous during stormy, rainy weather. Not only do they allow rainwater through the roof and onto your ceilings, but they may also become dislodged during storms and damage property or hurt people on the ground. When building, it’s sensible to opt for impact resistant roofing as it will prevent any serious damage to the roof structure.
Neighbourhood watch Well maintained storm water drains are important to protect you and your neighbourhood against flooding. Anything that impedes the flow of water is likely to cause flood damage so check the storm water drains near your home just before the rainy season begins. Involve the community in checking that drains are not blocked with leaves or garbage and be sure to contact your local municipality if they are. Encourage your neighbour to also check that rain water does not build-up on their side of the property or shared wall. This can lead to collapsing walls which may damage other structures and property such as cars.
Slippery Slope: Check whether your homeowner’s insurance includes additional cover (e.g landslide insurance), especially if your house is built against a river bank, on top or at the bottom of a hill. If your house lies at the bottom of a slope or a hill make sure rain water does not pool around it. Also ensure that you have a proper drainage system to direct water away from house by installing downspouts, gutters, trenches or swales.
Put a lid on it: Most external doors have a gap found at the bottom. Make sure to install a metal and rubber flap at the bottom 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 wood floors should be checked before the rainy season and where possible waxed to protect them from moisture.