Fire education efforts take centre stage

todayFebruary 6, 2023 35

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Cape Town has experienced marginal increases in both vegetation and residential fires in recent months, likely compounded by very hot and windy weather conditions, and near daily bouts of load-shedding. During this time, the City’s emergency services have also conducted dozens of education and awareness outreach events, to drive home the message that everyone has a role to play in fire safety.

Cape Town experiences an increase in vegetation fires over the warmer months, which is why the Fire & Rescue Service makes additional resources available during this time.

The Service recorded a marginal percentage increase in both vegetation and residential fires over the past four months.

‘Cape Town has been experiencing very warm and windy conditions this summer. Not only does it raise the risk of vegetation fires, but the wind accelerates any fire, whether vegetation or residential. It also impacts on our ability to get aerial support to go where needed as the helicopters stay grounded when the wind is too strong, and it increases the time spent working to extinguish fires.

‘Where our residential fires are concerned, we cannot discount the possibility that load-shedding had a hand in some of these incidents, both in formal and informal settings. Fire safety should always be a priority, and load-shedding is an added complication. I’m also concerned about the number of fatalities recorded. More than half of people who succumb to fires are adult males, and many of these fatal incidents occur late at night or in the early hours of the morning,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, Alderman JP Smith.

Between October and December 2022, the Fire and Rescue Service’s Fire Life Safety section conducted 91 education interventions, ranging from visits to businesses and religious institutions to informal settlements, schools and senior citizen care facilities.

The Disaster Risk Management Centre (DRMC) too held a number of door-to-door campaigns, loud-hailing exercises, exhibitions at various events and schools, as well as providing fire safety guidance and awareness to residents in at least 70 informal settlements. The DRMC is assisted by the Public Emergency Communication Centre, Law Enforcement and the City’s Public Participation Unit.
These education efforts are ongoing, and one of the most recent door-to-door campaigns took place in Lwandle, Strand, on 26 January 2023.

‘Our emergency services conduct hundreds of education and awareness outreach events each year around fire risks and mitigation, but it is a shared responsibility. Home-owners and families have to ensure that they are alert at all times to any potential fire risks, but also what to do in the event of a fire or emergency,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, Alderman JP Smith.

Tips around fire awareness include:

Maintaining your home’s electricity infrastructure and using only accredited electricians
Keeping flammable materials away from children or heat sources
Having an evacuation plan and sensitising the household to it
Switching off non-essential appliances when not in use
Not overloading electrical sockets and multi-plugs
Not leaving open flames, stoves or heaters unattended
Checking your load-shedding schedule and switching off all appliances, and particularly the stove, before the power goes out

A comprehensive list of fire safety tips is available here

Residents are also encouraged to save the City’s Public Emergency Communication Centre number on their cellphones, and to call them in case of an emergency. The number is 021 480 7700.

Article first appeared on the City of Cape Town’s website 

Written by: Keenan Williams

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