The City of Cape Town is undertaking a range of measures aimed at preventing fires and ensuring the safety of citizens.
“The City of Cape Town has built up its Fire and Emergency Rescue Services from being under-resourced to a professional team who serve all the residents of Cape Town with commitment. Since 2006, we have opened five fire stations to plug the gaps in response times and ensure that we get closer to high-risk fire areas, we have spent R300 million on resourcing the Fire and Rescue Services with vehicles and equipment, we increased the staff complement by at least 25% and we have invested heavily in training with the new fully accredited training college in Epping,” says Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, Alderman JP Smith.
“This brought our fire mortality rate in informal settlements down from 7.9/100 000, to 4.3/100 000 in five years. This is no small achievement, however, the task is not yet complete. We hope that the foundation that has been painstakingly laid by this administration can now be built upon by the successful implementation and expansion of the measures outlined above,” Alderman Smith adds.
The City’s intervention measures include community training/educational initiatives, as well as innovative engineering solutions. In addition, the City’s Safety and Security Directorate will ensure the effective enforcement of fire safety regulations and make every effort to improve emergency preparedness measures.
The Fire and Rescue Service prepared for the traditionally risky Festive Season by employing 120 seasonal firefighters who have ensured that none of the recent vegetation fires have become uncontrollable. In addition, the utilisation of the Expanded Public Works Programme employees to inspect and clean fire hydrants, man the fire station watch-rooms and carry out maintenance tasks around the stations has freed up trained firefighters to concentrate on firefighting operations, particularly in the City’s informal settlements where fires can have a rapid and devastating impact.
The City is implementing engineering solutions to further minimise the risk of extensive fire damage in informal settlements. To this end, re-blocking has been prioritised. Re-blocking is when the structures are grouped and reformatted to optimally use the space to create a communal space, enhance security, and improve fire-prevention and service delivery in informal settlements that are extremely dense. The City is committed to this project, but its implementation is lengthy due to the need for community consultation.
The City is also meeting with suppliers of innovative solutions in the form of fire retardant paints, innovative shack designs, safer lighting units. Furthermore the provision of fire extinguishers to communities is also being tested.
With regard to the educational initiatives, a number of at-risk communities have been engaged in awareness campaigns that included instruction in the use of fire extinguishers. The City has also employed the services of the Jungle Theatre Company to educate communities through an interactive production, The Spirit of Fire, which delivered key messages, such as how to minimise fire risk through prevention methods, and how to enact emergency procedures effectively.
In addition, the City is committed to enforcing the existing fire safety regulations, by shutting businesses that do not comply. This aspect of enforcement, however, is often challenging within the informal settlements but the City is fully committed to engaging with the communities to find a solution.