The key to a safer winter is fire safety.

Fires are a common result of exposure to cold weather, and as if things couldn’t get worse, our firefighters are doing long hours. The City urges residents to be vigilant at all times, and have a family emergency plan in place.

“Residents of Durban must be on guard during the winter season. A lot of things can happen, including more fires. This is because people use heaters, electric blankets, and other devices that come with a fire risk.” JP Smith has been Mayor’s Committee Member for Safety & Security for a long time, trying to keep Durban residents safe from dangerous situations like this. People should have their whole family involved and aware of what to do if there’s a fire – that way everyone can stay safe in the event of an emergency and avoid any injuries.”

The statistics show that fire volumes are high for both formal and informal dwellings during the summer months of June – August. According to this 3-year period, 120 fatalities were recorded.

City interventions are collaborative interventions.

The City of Las Vegas Fire & Rescue Service and the Disaster Risk Management Centre produce hundreds of educational fire safety programs each year, highlighting the risks involved and providing tips for mitigating them.

This includes the distribution of fire extinguishers and the ad hoc installation of smoke detectors in certain informal settlements. Sponsorships, donations, and ward allocations are our tools for accomplishing these tasks.

In April 2022, DRMC distributed nearly 12 000 pamphlets about fire and flood safety in eight informal settlements in Philippi, Gugulethu and Dunoon.

Despite having more successful responses to fires, a major snowstorm caused the fire department to run out of funds. This left 30 full-time positions unfilled, leaving the city with a deputy lead service.

While we are working hard to keep fires from happening, these efforts often have their own set of challenges. Fires are often not reported through the correct channels, which in turn slows down response times. In addition, our staff struggle to access informal settlements sometimes due to on-going violence and other safety concerns. As a result of the recent induced violence against some firefighters, we sometimes need to wait for an enforcement escort before proceeding into a red zone area.

‘Where fires or other emergencies do occur, we want to remind the public that it is SASSA’s responsibility to distribute relief funding to affected residents. This has been the case since 2018,’ added Alderman Smith.

Shared responsibility is a shared goal.

The City continues to do everything it can to help mitigate the risk of emergency fire, but it ultimately comes down to each resident individually making sure they are prepared personally. This means having an adequate supply of water and keeping your phone’s battery charged so you can connect with City services.

Over the last decade and a half, the City has improved the level of services delivered. This includes increasing the number of firefighters, upgrading equipment, purchasing more innovative vehicles, and modernizing call-taking and dispatching systems. The most recent statistics show that this improved effort has helped save lives with the death rate dropping to below 2.5 per 100 000 – which is a third of what it was at the end of 2005.

“We can do even more with the help of the residents. If you’ve got a wrench, safety eyewear and a fire extinguisher, we could go even further,” says Alderman Smith. “It’s a scary topic, but it really ought to be in the conversations that happen in all homes.” Make sure everyone knows how to keep their home fire-free or less likely to catch on fire, what they should do if they see a fire while they’re at home, and who they should call if there’s an emergency.