The official launch of the “Overstrand Shack Fire Project” was marked by a ceremonial event that took place at the Zwelihle Community Hall in Hermanus on Wednesday, 5 August 2015.  The event was presided over by Executive Mayor Nicolette Botha-Guthrie and included fire chiefs and senior fire fighting personnel, amongst others, from across the country.

The aim of the project is to empower people who live in the informal settlements to cope should a fire break out in their area.  Various training modules that included basic fire fighting and first aid training were offered by brainchild of the project and developer of the fire boxes, Hennie Zeelie, Angela Hesslop of the Red Cross and practical training from the Hermanus Fire Station. As the project rolls out further training will be provided to more informal dwellers.  

Once trained, individuals will have access to an electronic key that not only opens a carefully placed box containing a fire extinguisher, but will also sound an alarm to notify all residents of a fire outbreak.  A red light which is mounted high on a pole will flash and a SMS will simultaneously be sent to the fire brigade advising them which box needs attending to. In this way affected residents will have the means to try and stop the fire from spreading, or contain it before the fire brigade arrives.



In her keynote address the Mayor urged residents to take ownership of the project. “Zwelihle, place of beauty, take this training and make it your own and assist the fire department in managing fires in your area. Let us stand together and join hands in the fight against fires and the devastating effect it can have on our lives,” said the Mayor.

Before handing out certificates of participation to the first intake of trainees who had completed their training the Mayor stated, “Overstrand Municipality hopes that by endorsing this project we will draw the attention of the private and public sectors to become key stakeholders, sponsors and partners in this worthy undertaking.  Collaboration of this nature will do much to ensure community members receive the training and development that will ultimately result in increased job creation and revenue in the informal settlements.”

The Fire Chiefs in attendance expressed a keen interest in implementing a similar programme in their own regions.  In so doing, more communities will be better equipped to deal with fire outbreaks and alleviate the load on the overly-stretched fire fighting personnel around the country.

The launch was concluded with a heart-warming rendition of “The Prayer” delivered by Law Enforcement Officer Nelson Knanunu, who has risen from adverse circumstances and used opportunities presented to him to become a role model for youth in his community.

To this end, the Mayor imparted, “Nelson is a great example of how a bad background need not define what one can become.  Here is a young man who turned his life around by understanding that the education and training opportunities offered to him through the years was the key to a better and brighter future. Again, I want to impart to the trainees here today that the training you’ve received through this programme will only put you in a better position when applying for jobs. Please go back to your communities and put it to good use.”




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