Staying secure during load shedding

Load shedding is a relatively new challenge for us and the unpredictability of these power outages have made an already difficult situation almost unmanageable.

As an accommodation establishment owner, it is imperative that you are prepared for these load shedding eventualities, and that you have the needs of your guests as your number one priority. You also are responsible not only for them having a wonderful stay, but also to keep them secure at all times they are on your property. Load shedding has presented the South African public with extra concerns over security issues, and here are a few ideas to help keep you and your guests secure during power outages.

A few of the themes to consider when you think about security during load shedding, is making sure your guests are comfortable, ensuring they know their way around the property, informing them on not only safety while they are within your property’s boundaries but also while they are out sightseeing or working, and finally securing your property and making sure all access points to the grounds and the building itself are secure.

Your guests’ health and comfort should be your top priority. To make sure that they are comfortable and calm during a power outage, the most valuable thing you can do is to forewarn them that a blackout may strike at any time. Check out Eskom’s website and try and work out the load shedding schedule for you area. Also, it would be a good idea to find out from your guests when they book their room whether they have any special needs, and whether they have any health equipment that needs electricity to run. Inform them of the whereabouts of the local hospital and be prepared to rush them there in an emergency.

Here are a few more ideas to keep your guests comfortable and calm:

  • Take your guests on a thorough tour of the property and inform them on meeting points and other areas that can act as communal meeting places. As part of your information pack, print out a map of the building and grounds marking any places that could be unsafe or dangerous in the dark, e.g. staircases or balconies, swimming pools, fish ponds etc.
  • Have an emergency kit available in each room. Inform your guests where you have put the kit, and tell them they are more than welcome to use it during a power cut. The kit should consist of a torch with fresh batteries that will last for at least five hours, a portable radio with fresh batteries, a few granola bars and other items of non-perishable foods, a few bottles of mineral water, a blanket, a few things for entertainment e.g. a deck of cards, a whistle. The kit should also contain a first aid kit with pain killers, plasters, etc.
  • Keep your cool. If the power trips when it is very hot outside,  let your guests know that the coolest place to sit would be the lowest level of the building. Also, wearing light-weight clothing helps as does drinking lots of water, even if you are not thirsty.
  • Avoid shock and electrocution. Do not allow your guests to operate your generator, if you have one. If you are starting your generator during a power cut, make sure your hands are dry and never plug your generator into a wall socket, unless you have the correct power transfer switch to be able to do this. Your generator should always be installed by an electrician for proper grounding and polarity and to ensure extension cords are installed correctly.
  • Watch out for carbon- monoxide poisoning. If you are using a generator please never operate it anywhere inside your home, including the garage or any confined area as it produces carbon monoxide which can be fatal. Remember that carbon monoxide, the gas that is a by-product of burning fuel is odourless! A generator should be kept at least 10 feet away from the home with its exhaust pointing away from the house. Also remember that burning charcoal in a braai will also create carbon monoxide – make sure you braai outside! Also keep in mind that electricity cuts can play havoc with fire systems and fire control systems, and that your guests and you should be extra vigilant when using candles, gas or other sources of energy.
  • Once you have your guests comfortable and sorted out, the next thing to do is to ensure that your property and building security systems are working properly. Here are a few things to check before you have a power cut:
  • House alarm batteries: If your battery is older than a year, you should contact your security company to either replace it or check it for you. The newer batteries use a gel technology which improves the life to between 6-8 hours.
  • Electric Fencing: Your electric fencing should also have a back up battery which would ensure that the fence stays active during a power cut. Ensure that this battery is in good working order too.
  • Electric gates and doors: Ensure that all your automated gates and doors are secured and in good working condition. All other gates and doors should be locked during a power cut. Your main gate should have a lockable pedestrian gate within the frame, and all your guests should have the key for this gate. This will allow them to walk into or out of your property without having to open the main gate.

Your guests should be given the emergency contact number of your security company, which they can phone at any time of the night or day if they feel they need added security when returning back to the property. Inform your security company that you have guests and they should be regarded as a top priority if they have an emergency.

Not only can load shedding have an impact on the safety of your guests while they are within your property, but also while they are out sightseeing or doing their business. One of the worst-hit sectors has been the roads and traffic during a power cut can be horrific. Let your guests know this, along with the following tips to stay safe on the roads. If your guests are venturing out and they have a cellphone, remind them to keep it fully charged. Their vehicle should also have plenty of petrol in the tank, as the pumps at garage stations cannot pump fuel during load shedding. The following road scenarios could pose safety risks, so please advise your guests when they are travelling around.

  • Inadequate street lighting: Without street lights, it becomes almost impossible for motorists to spot potholes, rubbish, pedestrians and other items lying in the road. Slow down and use your bright lights if there are no oncoming vehicles.
  • Traffic lights: This is possibly where most of the frustration during load shedding will occur on the roads. Inform your guests that an out of order traffic light acts as a four-way stop and that they should just be patient! Help your guests plan their routes properly using decent mapping services and ensure that they leave early enough to beat the rush.
  • Crime on the road: Criminals love the dark, and they can lurk easily behind bushes and other structures without being seen. Motorists should be particularly aware of potential hijackers and “smash and grab” criminals.

Don’t keep your guests in the dark during load shedding. Thorough planning for your establishment and its security will help guests feel secure during a power outage. Guests should receive all security and safety information upon their arrival, and with good systems in place you can ensure that both you and your guests not only are secure, but can maybe have fun during an unpredicted black out!