An effective early-warning system is the best personal risk-management tool you can have. Your personal safety should be your first concern – not the premium discount you get if you don’t have an alarm. But you need to make sure you use your alarm system as stipulated, otherwise your claim may be rejected.
Christelle Fourie, managing director of MUA Insurance Acceptances, filled me in on some of the mistakes homeowners make.
- Does your policy require an alarm with armed response? If it does, you need to set your alarm every single time you leave home. And make sure you understand what your insurance company requires in terms of the warranty – if you have a domestic worker living on the property but not in your home, for example, your insurer may say your property is occupied when you’re not home.
- If you leave your house in a hurry, make sure the alarm is set. Don’t use the remote control unit and drive away – make sure the light is on or the warning sounds are heard. If the alarm isn’t set, even if by accident, your insurance policy won’t cover you for theft or burglary if the alarm’s part of the policy requirement.
- You’re responsible for the upkeep of the alarm system – is it in full working condition? If you’re burgled, you can’t say you didn’t know the alarm was faulty or the back-up battery was flat and you only realised this later – say, your home was burgled when nobody was in it and there was a power cut. You must test your alarm system regularly, including the back-up battery. “I’d recommend at least every six months,” says Fourie.
- The sad truth is that the majority of burglary and theft claims can be traced back to employees or workers who’ve had temporary access to your property. Do a full background check on any new employees. Whether you want to give your workers your alarm codes is up to you, but if you do, perhaps provide them with a remote control unit to set the alarm when they leave the house, as the alarm needs to be set at all times.
- Fourie says that claims are often submitted for theft from a garage or worker’s quarter, but it’s later found out that the alarm system doesn’t extend to this part of the insured property. This means that this portion of the claim won’t be covered by your policy.
- Old alarm systems with old technology are easy to bypass – update your alarm systems every four to five years.
- It’s better to use a radio signal unit, instead of monitoring via Telkom lines. The radio signal alarms might be slightly more expensive, but at last you’ll have uninterrupted armed response support and won’t have to deal with poor service when telephone lines are down.
- Test your system by activating it and switch the electricity off to see if the battery’s in working condition. Also have it serviced by your alarm company twice a year.
- It’s worth having other security measures in place, too. They’ll provide extra security and will also bring your premiums down. Have some or all of the following in place: burglar bars; security gates; beams in the garden; electric fencing; security guards on the premises; Pin Locks sliding doors, and guard dogs.