The disruptive nature of the COVID pandemic put many things on hold for two years - one thing that is certainly not on hold is the risk of fire and other emergencies that continue to happen. And these can happen anytime, anywhere and to anybody.
It’s crucial for all organisations, particularly those with high-risk occupancy, to have a clear, step-by-step evacuation plan that explains exactly what everyone should do in the event of an emergency.
To this end, Overstrand Deputy Mayor, Cllr Lindile Ntsabo and Mayco member of Protection Services, led a team from Overstrand Fire Services, to assist Arabella Country Estate and Golf Course with a scheduled emergency exercise to test their evacuation plans and drills last week, 13 September 2022. This date was chosen to coincide with Tourism month.
These evacuation exercises test the readiness of the emergency services in case of an emergency and evaluate response times for the evacuation of organisations with high occupancy such as hotels, schools and old age homes. It also tests the practicality of an emergency evacuation plan. Debriefing is done by the Fire Services Department after each exercise and the necessary amendments are made, if needed.
Typically, these evacuation exercises are co-ordinated by the Overstrand Municipal Fire Services and could involve various stakeholders such as municipal traffic services and law enforcement, South African Police Service (SAPS), private security companies, neighbourhood watch and ambulance services.
Overstrand Municipality would like to encourage organisations, business and landowners to conduct regular mandatory emergency evacuation exercises. High-risk occupancies are advised to contact the Fire Service Department if they have any enquiries on 028 313 8980.
In-terms of the Overstrand Municipality's Community Fire Safety By-law, PN 342/2006 the emergency evacuation plan must include the following:
23. (1) The owner or person in charge of a school, hospital, residential institution, hotel, guest house, hostel or other similar occupancy which has a population in excess of 25 persons (including staff), must formulate an emergency evacuation plan detailing the appropriate action to be taken by the staff or the occupants in the event of a fire or other threatening danger.
(2) The controlling authority may order the owner or person in charge of the premises, other than those contemplated in subsection (1), to formulate an emergency evacuation plan detailing the appropriate action to be taken by the staff or the occupants in the event of a fire or other threatening danger.
(3) The plan mentioned in subsections (1) and (2) must be revised if an aspect thereof is no longer applicable or if the building for which the plan was designed has changed.
(4) The emergency evacuation plan must be tested in its entirety at a maximum of six-monthly intervals or when the plan has been revised and a record of the testing must be kept in a register.
(5) The register mentioned in subsection (4) must contain the following information:
- the date and time of the test;
- the number of participants;
- the outcome of the test and any corrective actions required, and
- the name and signature of the person supervising the test.
(6) The register, together with the emergency evacuation plan, must be available on the premises for inspection by the controlling authority.
(7) The controlling authority may evaluate the formulation and implementation of the emergency evacuation plan and may officially communicate any recommendations or remedial actions to improve or rectify faults in the plan.