City of Ekurhuleni DEMS urges public, ‘Help emergency services to help you’
“When residents vandalise the infrastructures installed in their areas to make their lives bearable, they suffer in cases of emergencies.” These are the words of William Ntladi, the district manager in the Ekurhuleni Disaster and Emergency Management Services (DEMS), sharing some of the challenges that the department faces in a bid to serve the communities. In recent years, crime has spiralled out of control to a point where emergency officials are targeted, robbed of their valuables and being hindered from executing their responsibilities of serving and saving lives. Ntladi says that in one of the life-threatening incidents, one of their fire fighters was shot while responding to an emergency a year ago, fortunately they survived. “It is heart-breaking that we now have officials who refuse to respond to calls in some of these areas without a security escort. This is unfortunate because we have taken an oath to serve our people with these essential services and should not be expected to be armed for our own safety,” he explains. Ntladi says the mushrooming of informal settlements across the metro also poses a big challenge for them.
He shares some of the challenges they face in accessing informal settlements and formalised areas.
• Most of the roads are informal and do not have street names or permanent land marks that we can use to identify them.
• The roads are narrow, making it impossible for the fire trucks to manoeuvre through to reach the emergency point.
• These areas do not have fire hydrants; we are then forced to send some of our big fire trucks to assist as secondary water sources, which in most cases are unable to drive into the area because of the narrow or small streets.
This is a big challenge because the distance in which the hoses are connected from the fire to the water sources affects the pressure required to extinguish the fire.
• The streets are not tarred and as a result, during rainy days they become slippery, making it impossible to accommodate the heaviness of our fire engines.
• Informal settlements are mostly furnished with illegal electricity connection, with electrical cables exposed either on the ground or low lying, making it impossible for our big trucks to drive through. In most cases, the electrical cables are connected directly to the transformers with high voltage and the exposed live cable poses a bigger risk for emergency personnel because water is one of the factors that fuel the fire.
Challenges emergency personnel face when accessing formalised areas
• These areas are equipped with fire hydrants which are positioned strategically, but nine out of 10 of them are vandalised with some of the parts stripped off, making them useless for emergency personnel to use them in cases of emergency. The hydrants are then used illegally by car wash operators.
Ntladi says that as the department, they have identified that residents still don’t know emergency contact details in their metros. “We still have people who call the 10111, 10177 national emergency number or private emergency services number while they actually need the services of the DEMS. This delays the response period because by the time the request is dispatched to the right department it would be too late. These residents then blame the emergency services for taking forever to respond to their request while in actual fact had they contacted the direct number, we could have responded earlier. The Ekurhuleni emergency services number is 011 458 0911,” he adds.
Ntladi urges residents to work hand in glove with them by offering protection and fighting criminal elements to enable the department to serve them and to save lives.
Source: African Reporter