A safety guide to celebrating Heritage Day as fire claims increase

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Heritage Day has come around again. It marks a time for all South Africans to come together and celebrate the ties that bind us.

Arguably, nothing is a more ingrained part of local culture than a shisanyama. With families and friends planning home gatherings to commemorate the day, South Africans are reminded to take adequate safety precautions to manage the risks that come with cooking over an open flame and ensure that it is a safe experience for all.

Commenting on this is Greta Goosen, the head of customer experience at MiWay Insurance, who encourages South Africans to manage the potential damage and insurance risks associated with indoor or outdoor braais. “Even the most seasoned braai masters can make mistakes that can end up in damaged property. Keeping an eye on the fire this Heritage Day should be a priority, particularly given the fact that fire-related claims are on the rise.”

She says that the latest results reported by Santam are indicative of higher-than-expected losses caused from fires in the first half of 2023. “By taking simple steps to mitigate these risks within your homes, you can avoid unnecessary complications and spend the day truly enjoying the real meaning of the occasion,” she adds.

Safety drills for your grill

Goosen has a few tips for South Africans planning to host a braai for Heritage Day, starting with doing safety checks on your braai grill and equipment. If you have a gas braai, you need to inspect all gas lines and connections for leaks. This can be done by using a solution of equal parts water and dishwashing soap. Brush this solution onto the gas connections and hoses and turn on the gas. If bubbles form at any connection or hose, that is indicative of a gas leak and those connections need to be tightened accordingly. Alternatively, consult a professional for advice and braai maintenance.

A conventional braai grate or grill needs to be checked for signs of visible damage, such as dents, rust, loose parts or faulty components. Outdoor grills also need to be placed on a level, stable surface to prevent tip-overs. The grill also needs to be positioned at a safe distance from structures, trees and flammable materials. After an outdoor braai, be sure to extinguish the fire properly to prevent the risk of veld fires.

Do a clean sweep

As Goosen advises, after conducting safety checks, it’s recommended that all equipment be thoroughly cleaned. For example, any grease, food debris and ash buildup or residue should be cleaned from the grill to reduce the related fire hazard. A thorough cleaning of the grease tray or drip pan could also prevent buildup that could potentially cause a fire.

Stay on the safe side

Another precaution to take is to have fire safety equipment on hand for use in the event of a fire. This could include a portable fire extinguisher, which is a handy implement to keep in the home. Alternatively, keeping a bucket of water or sand close at hand to smother any flare-ups is also a viable safety method.

Check your insurance policy

Finally, take a read through your insurance policies to check whether fire damage and any related accidents are adequately covered. Remember that property insurance will cover any damage or loss related to the actual home structure. Home contents insurance will cover damage to household belongings and furniture in the event of a fire. In some cases, add-on insurance clauses may provide an additional safeguard for outdoor cooking equipment and supplies.

“If you’re unsure what your policy covers or whether there are any obligations that fall on you as the homeowner in mitigating fire-related risk, feel free to talk to your broker or insurer for expert advice and guidance. Wishing all South Africans, a safe and enjoyable Heritage Day,” concludes Goosen.

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