Some Load Shedding Basics

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Some Load Shedding Basics

Jean Genet, the controversial French novelist wrote, “A man must dream a long time in order to act with grandeur, and dreaming is nursed in darkness.”

With recent pronouncements suggesting that load shedding will be a part of our lives for at least the next two years, it appears that we may have much time for dreaming – hopefully we will all be able to “act with grandeur” when supply levels are restored!

In the meantime, many questions and issues have arisen in respect of how load shedding affects our lives and those of our clients. We would like to take this opportunity to shed some light (!) on the issues:

Security

Security systems in most homes rely on electricity for power. In the absence of an electrical supply, electric fences become totally ineffective and alarm systems default to battery backup. The problem is that even fully charged and functional batteries have a limited lifespan and in the event of lengthy outages end up providing no protection. Of course, most batteries are operating at less than full capacity and may fail earlier than expected. We thus urge everyone with alarms to check their batteries regularly.

In addition, you should also make sure that your home is secured by physical means. Security gates, windows and unprotected doors should be closed so that the building is secure (while ensuring that there is adequate ventilation!)

Power Surges

When power is restored following an outage, there may be a surge that can damage appliances and electronic goods. This can result in great cost and inconvenience. Here, we urge everyone to install proper surge protection on their distribution boards. These are inexpensive, typically costing a few hundred rand. They should be installed by a qualified electrician. If you don’t have surge protection, unplug all your appliances and devices to protect them from the possible surge when the power comes back on.

Fire Hazard

Power outages can indirectly also increase the level of fire hazard in the home. These could arise from numerous sources, such as using candles, petrol and generators, paraffin or gas for illumination and cooking. We suggest that battery powered illumination be the first choice. Gas for cooking is the best choice as long as all manufacturer directions are followed. If you have a generator it should be professionally installed and fuel managed according to instructions. Importantly, if your generator is simply back-supplying into your distribution board via a socket, you will be breaching municipal by-laws and this could create issues in the event of a claim. It is also important that a fire extinguisher be at hand at all times.

General Hints for personal safety and comfort

  • Make sure that you are aware of scheduled outage times but plan for all eventualities.
  • LED lanterns offer great battery life and can illuminate an entire room quite effectively. Keep these in places where the family will be together as well as having torches in easy to reach places for immediate light.
  • Install solar powered light in the garden to provide illumination should you have to exit the building.
  • Make sure you know how to use your automatic gates and doors in the absence of an electrical supply. You don’t want to leave your car on the street.
  • Ensure that cell phones are charged at all times. If you are lucky enough to have ipads or other tablet devices, keep these charged too – having a distraction for the kids can help a lot. If you      can’t live without television, you might want to consider a DSTV “drifta” or “walka”. You should also think about getting relatively inexpensive backup power-packs for all of your devices.
  • Have books and games available. Power outages can end up being great family quality time.
  • Keep ice in your freezer and have a cooler box near. You should avoid opening your fridge more than once or twice.
  • If you go out to  eat, be extra vigilant when returning home. Ideally ask your security service to accompany you