Fire Ops SA offers parallel service in Gauteng
Service delivery issues in the municipal and provincial spheres compel us all to consider parallel service offerings, whether it is police/security, hospitals, schooling, or ambulance services. The reader is affected in some way or another, even the police officer mostly pays dues to a security company for armed response. And so the day has arrived where the last of the first defence line services, namely fire, is challenged in a major way, nowhere more so than in Gauteng. Fire Ops SA was set up as a non-profit with a volunteer base-line, so that anyone wishing to join the company needs to do a stint as volunteer; the time line for such an exercise is three months. During this phase the applicant is duly evaluated, not on their level of qualification (only) but mostly to determine whether the individual really has an appetite for our environment and vice versa.
The business model is based on the assumption that asset losses in the corporate environment are larger in terms of collective inventories, than in private households. However, service offerings to the individual household have already been well received in Johannesburg.
Their first corporate client was Anglo American, where they implemented a principle learned in Iran, when their team audited refineries, fire brigade services and fire fighter skills levels earlier this year. AA was the first company in the country to employ fire fighters on a 24/7 basis, where the fire fighters are accommodated on campus. The client has procured all the equipment required for high rise fire fighting and rescue operations. This model has been proposed to various other corporates in the ‘old city’; negotiations for implementation are in advanced stages.
The fire attack philosophy of the brigade is unconventional and will in all probability invite debate from the reader. Due to the very poor situation with water provision in the city, the attack philosophy adopted is that of High Pressure and UHP engagement, where small amounts of water are required but applied pressure varies from 20 BAR to 1500 BAR. Technology application includes the use of thermal imaging cameras and helmet-cams.
Parum aquae multo animi – Little water, much courage
Only seasoned fire fighters are allowed to engage in the fire structure; the crews consist only of individuals au fait with spec ops style tactical fire fighting; less experienced individuals fill in to make up support for the fire crews, known as ‘Red Caps’. Crews thoroughly study the buildings they are responsible for, so that they have a proper understanding of sprinklers, risers, detection and staircase pressurisation systems in those buildings.
The response consists of both ground support and aerial support. The Squirrel helicopter distinguishes itself in payload and superior performance criteria. Crews flown in for fire fighting either repel down from the chopper onto the roof or disembark in open spaces such as parking areas. The chopper is also used for rescue purposes, such as extracting victims from mountaineering incidents or vehicular accident incidents. The service is rendered in a flight circle of 150km. At an airspeed of 278k/hour such distances are viable propositions still, in a province where there is no committed rescue chopper, only helicopters dedicated to transporting patients after the extrication has been attended to by others.
Standard Bank has graciously agreed to allowing Fire Ops SA to utilise the two-bay firehouse in Godfrey Street, Johannesburg. The five year-term contract allows us to quarter there to serve all other subscription corporate clients in the old city. There will be three apparatus kept in the firehouse, namely an engine, a rescue unit and a hose unit. Fire Ops SA will be operational from the station from middle January 2019.
The fire reporting app is available to all individuals residing in or occupying the buildings Fire Ops SA is responsible for; this allows the caller to report a fire directly to the crew, the time lapse from the caller to the crew is sixty seconds. The app was developed with a comprehensive back-office management system. It doubles up as a response app so that crews can report in on arrival, package reports and pictures of the incident and complete reports on closing the incident.
The service is promoted as a province-wide task force; we have a client that owns some eighty retail outlets in Gauteng and another two potential clients with more than one hundred properties to be protected each.
Written by: Wynand Engelbrecht, CEO/CFO Fire Ops SA