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Lights Out

Anthony sharpe locks the door, battens the hatches and pokes around in the dark for a way to keep the home safe during loadshedding.

You know the drill. We all do by now. As accustomed as we are to coping with power outages, it’s still astoundingly inconvenient. Especially so, considering criminals have also become accustomed to the renewed bout of load shedding.

It’s no secret that when the lights go out, the brigands come out to play: police and security companies have warned of an increase in criminal activity during blackouts when streets and properties are dark and security systems and cameras are not functioning properly.

So how do you keep your home secure when the lights go out? The first thing to do is to stop people from getting onto your property by ensuring your perimeter is secure.

“In terms of the holistic picture, we view the gate as the first security point,” says Centurion Systems communications co-ordinator, Charl Mijnhardt. “We always recommend installing a gate-automation system that’s fitted with some sort of battery backup facility. A lot of older gate motors were AC drive, in other words from the mains.

“If you use a battery backup, when the mains fail you can still get into your property without having to get out of your car and open the gate manually, which puts you at significant risk of hijacking.”

Mijnhardt also recommends a gate motor that isn’t going to run out of power – for instance, one with a 24-volt battery, not a 12 volt one.

Illuminating

Neighbourhoods can be startlingly dark during load shedding. If someone manages to get past your gate, it’s important to know if they’re skulking about your property. Consider placing battery-powered lights in and around your house. You can also install LEDs that are integrated with your alarm system, switching on automatically when the power trips.

Although these draw very little power, it is recommended that you get an additional dedicated battery pack for these to avoid running your alarm battery flat.

Your alarm is the next line of defence. While these systems are typically mains powered, they are installed with battery backups. However, these backups are designed to be used occasionally, not daily, so it’s important to take proactive action to ensure they stay in good working order.

“Batteries are the backbone for any system and if they are in proper working order, the alarm system will still offer you the protection you need,” says Fidelity Services Group CEO, Wahl Bartmann. These batteries are typically specced to provide power for up to eight hours. Mercifully, load shedding doesn’t last that long (yet), but with increased frequency comes the risk that the battery may not be able to recharge fully between cuts.

“In the same way that a car needs its battery to be replaced, you will need to replace your alarm system battery from time to time,” adds Bartmann. “They have a finite life span. If you have any concerns about your system, contact your security provider.”

Maintaining a relationship with your security provider is important. Power cuts can damage alarm systems, so these need to be tested more regularly. They can also trigger false alarms – if one of these occurs, be sure to cancel it as soon as possible and communicate the situation to the service provider to prevent resources being diverted away from real problems.

Get off the grid

Many businesses and homes are reducing their reliance on Eskom by utilising solar power. If you can’t afford a full-blown solar system for your home, consider installing a smaller dedicated one to serve your security needs. “Most security systems have a tiny current draw,” says Mijnhardt, “so solar will be enough to power them. Power-failure autonomy is the big thing.

“Make sure you have a battery backup system, and if you’re able to do so get a solar panel.”

Looks like solar is just safer then – for us and the planet.

Image: ©iStock - 506663806

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