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The City’s Disaster Risk Management Centre has been central to coordinating assistance to thousands of people over the last six months, including victims of the Imizamo Yethu fire in March, but also conducting fire awareness campaigns in dozens of communities. 

The City of Cape Town’s Disaster Risk Management Centre (DRMC) has provided humanitarian relief to residents affected by nearly 700 fires in the last six months.

Cape Town is the only city in South Africa that has service level agreements with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for humanitarian relief in instances of disaster-like floods or fires. The City’s new Organisational Development and Transformation Plan focuses on excelling in basic service delivery and this unique provision of assistance is in line with that vision.

In the event of a local disaster, DRMC staff conduct an assessment to determine the number of people affected and their specific needs. Once the assessment is completed, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) partner is activated to provide relief.NGO partners like the Mustadafin Foundation, Salvation Army, and Historically Disadvantaged Individual (HDI), provide relief including food, blankets and vanity packs to affected communities. Their claims for reimbursement are verified by the Disaster Risk Management Centre who then submits them to the South African Social Security Agency for payment.

Between October 2016 and mid-April 2017, the DRMC coordinated relief for 686 fire incidents, including:

  • More than half a million meals
  • 28 500 blankets and nearly 5 000 mattresses
  • Just over 20 000 adult and baby vanity packs

‘The City provides humanitarian support to our most vulnerable residents in times of crisis. Generally, this includes indigent residents, tenants in Council rental stock, and those living in backyards or informal settlements. Some incidents are easier to manage than others where the amount of work and coordination is absolutely mind-boggling. I commend Disaster Risk Management but also our NGO partners, the public, and businesses who all pull together in times of need,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security; and Social Services, Alderman JP Smith.

Over the same period, the Disaster Risk Management Centre has also conducted fire safety awareness programmes in a number of areas like Gugulethu, Philippi, Lavender Hill and Masiphumelele, reaching approximately 30 000 residents.

The FireWise public awareness project is a door-to-door campaign involving the distribution of calendars and pamphlets with tips on the prevention of fires and what to do when a fire occurs. The City’s Fire and Rescue Service conducts similar awareness sessions at schools, Early Childhood Development centres, old-age care facilities, and in communities. As part of the awareness campaigns, staff distribute hand-held fire extinguishers, fire blankets, solar-powered lamps, and warning devices such as horns.

‘Fire prevention awareness happens on a daily basis. The City’s DRMC and the Fire and Rescue Service do more than 800 sessions a year, educating communities on various safety measures. The reality is that many fires are the result of negligence and often substance abuse plays a role too. Electrical faults are another headache, with over-populated wall sockets and illegal connections to name a few. So while we as the City have a massive responsibility to safeguard residents, as with most things it is a two-way street that requires residents to play their part in being fire-wise and responsible,’ added Alderman Smith.

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