White Paper on Fire Services gazetted on 25 September 2020
South Africa’s White Paper on Fire Services was gazetted on 25 September 2020. Fire and Rescue International received the following communique from Dr Musiwalo Moses Khangale of the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC).
The Fire Brigade Services Act, 1987 (Act No. 99 of 1987) (FBSA) is one of the pieces of legislation administered by the Department of Cooperative Governance (DCoG) through the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC). The Department has identified the FBSA as an old order legislation that must be reviewed to closely align and harmonise it with other applicable legislation especially the post 1994 local government legislation. Initially, DCoG attempted to achieve the objectives of reviewing the FBSA through amendments and accordingly commenced with the process. Whilst this process was underway, it became evident that this approach will not enable the Department to achieve the desired objectives due to the nature of aspects that must be introduced in the revised fire services piece of legislation. In view of this and consistent with Government’s approach to policy development, a Discussion Paper on the review of Fire Services legislation was published for public comments in March 2013. The Discussion Paper was followed by the White Paper on Fire Services which will form the policy basis for the revised legislation.
The department is confident that this approach will ensure that prior to the promulgation of the revised fire services piece of legislation, a clear policy framework for the function is in place for all role players to grasp the fundamental principles and policy direction underpinning the legislation. The fundamentals of this White Paper are derived from the Constitution and the relevant post 1994 local government legislation. While fire fighting services are provided at both local government level and by designated services, the White Paper also clearly outlines the roles and responsibilities that both national and provincial governments must execute in support of municipalities and other stakeholders involved in fire services across the country in line with Chapters 3, 6 and 7 of the Constitution. The White Paper also introduces a vision for the Fire Services function as outlined below:
Vision of Fire Services
A fire service that is proactive in preventing fires and other risks rather than simply reacting to fires through –
a. Acting in support of the wider developmental agenda as outlined in the NDP;
b. Establishing sound institutional and administrative capabilities that support its roles and purpose;
c. Demonstrating good governance and administration;
d. Adopting community based approaches;
e. Putting people and their concerns first; and
f. Professionalisation of the function.
Key policy proposals underscoring the White Paper
There are 20 key policy proposals set out in the White Paper: These are:
a. Reform legislation to reposition the fire services into the 21st century;
b. Clear definition of roles and responsibilities of all spheres of government;
c. Introduction of a national fire services advisory structure;
d. Locating fire services within the broader development agenda of the country;
e. Development of a National Fire Services Framework;
f. Professionalisation of the fire services;
g. Alignment of applicable regulatory/legislative frameworks to provide a comprehensive and unified legislation for fire services;
h. Establishment of a national fire research and data centre;
i. Development of a uniform risk assessment model;
j. Development of various categories of designated services;
k. Development of a national education and training strategy;
l. Introduction of a risk-based approach in the provision of fire services;
m. Entrenching fire safety and prevention as core deliverables of the fire services;
n. Introduction of a funding strategy for fire services;
o. Make provision to adopt applicable South African National Standards (SANS) to provide benchmarks for the provision of fire services;
p. Make it mandatory for all municipalities to develop and adopt fire services bylaws;
q. Introduction of a National Fire Code that will deal with fire safety elements that are not addressed adequately in the National Building Regulations;
r. Introduction of a national uniform Incident Management System (IMS) to improve response to fire incidents;
s. Establishment of Fire Services Directorate at both provincial and national government spheres, and
t. The introduction and implementation of a new Fire Services Act.
The review of the FBSA is fundamental to re-position fire services to respond to changing and growing needs of society and to contribute meaningfully in the achievement of National Development Plan (NDP). The White Paper therefore represents the first major step in the reform and overhaul of the legislative framework governing the provision of Fire Services to communities. The NDMC will commence with the process of drafting the Fire Services Bill based on the policy framework provided by the White Paper and would create platforms for consultation across the country with all role players. Finally, the NDMC wishes to convey its gratitude to all role players who participated in the process of developing this White Paper on Fire Services.
The Head of the National Disaster Management Centre, Dr Mmaphaka Tau, has noted that the finalisation of this White Paper marks an important milestone in the process of introducing a comprehensive and harmonised piece of legislation for the Fire Services in the country. He further observes that, by enjoining all role players to prioritise fire risk reduction measures especially at community level, this White Paper is in line with global contemporary disaster management philosophy and practice.
The gazetted White Paper is available for download on the NDMC website www.ndmc.gov.za. Enquiries on the White Paper can be directed to Dr Musiwalo Moses Khangale on email: Mosesk@ndmc.gov.za or Tel: 012 848 4601.
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