In this modern era, technology has provided society with numerous means of predicting the natural and man-made hazards that are part and parcel of daily living.
But it also makes sense to be prepared for any eventuality. The likelihood of recuperating from an emergency or hazard tomorrow almost always depends on the planning and preparation done today.
The City of Cape Town is committed to protecting and preparing the City, and its residents, for emergencies and hazards. This includes educating and empowering Capetonians to improve their personal preparedness.
Whilst the needs and abilities of people are unique, every individual can and should take steps to prepare for any kind of emergency or hazardous situation. Preparedness should take into account the natural and man-made hazards that may happen.
There are basic tips that can help to prevent most common hazards and be used to formulate an emergency plan so that residents are better prepared.
Gale Force Winds
- Protect and reinforce windows and doors (front doors and garage doors), as well as ensure that your roof is secure in its frame structure in order to prevent damage.
- Be sure trees and shrubs around your home are well trimmed.
- When driving, it is important to keep speed down and a firm grip on the steering wheel, and to watch out for possible broken trees/power lines along the roadway.
- Ensure adequate insurance cover for possible storm damage.
- Most importantly, wear sunscreen on all exposed areas (this includes feet and hands). A sun protection factor (SPF) of 45+ is recommended and, in the case of swimmers, always re-apply when exiting the water, as the sunscreen may have washed off.
- Wear protective clothing and accessories (hats and sunglasses) and use large umbrellas to keep out of the sun. For those cycling or hiking, long-sleeved cotton shirts are excellent for this.
- Reduce time spent in the sun, especially between the hours of 10:00 and 15:00, which is generally the hottest time of the day. When seeking a tan, do so gradually and over time, in order to minimise the effects of overexposure.
- Those who participate in outdoor sports should refrain from doing so when it is extremely hot, as they could sustain heat-stroke and cardiac problems.
- Children should never be left unattended, especially outside and in motor vehicles.
- Animals and pets should be taken care of, and should ideally not be directly exposed to the sun.
- Be aware of the dangers of heat exhaustion – drink plenty of water and stay cool as much as possible.
- If you are indoors, stay there and move to a safe location in the room. This could be a strong desk or table, or along an interior wall. The goal is to protect yourself from falling objects and to be located near structural strong points of the room.
- Arrange your home for safety, with heavy objects stored on lower shelves and more delicate objects in cabinets with latched doors. Heavy mirrors or pictures should not be hung where people frequently sleep.
- If you are outdoors, move to an open area where falling objects are unlikely to strike you; keep away from buildings, power lines and trees.
- If you are driving, slow down smoothly and stop on the side of the road. Remain in your car. Avoid stopping under bridges and overpasses, or near/under power lines, trees and large signs.
- Stock up on emergency supplies. These include: battery operated radio and flashlights (with extra batteries), first aid kit, water, non-perishable food items, blankets, water and cooking fuel.
- Teach all members of your family about earthquake safety. Places to take shelter, places to avoid and the actions you should take are all things your family should be familiar with.
- Check that the drainage system on your property is working, and if there are blocked drains, intakes and illegal dumping, report them.
- If you stay in a flood-prone area, move to higher ground or raise the floor level of your house so that it is higher than the land outside.
- Clear your gutters, down-pipes and furrows and remove dead branches from trees in order to ensure that water cannot get blocked and build up on your property.
- Make sure your roof is waterproof and dig furrows around your house to divert water away from the home.
- Never leave fires and cooking stoves unattended.
- Keep flammable objects and substances away from young children, and out of reach, and use child-proof caps on flammable products such as paraffin.
- Extinguish all candles and lamps before going to bed or leaving your home, and do not sleep with heaters switched on.
- Switch off all electrical appliances when not in use and avoid overloading of electrical plug points.
- Always keep a bucket of sand and a bucket of water handy, in case a fire breaks out, and have a portable extinguisher available in your home or vehicle.
- Informal structures should be built at least 3m apart to stop fires from spreading, and ensure that your home has more than one exit to ensure escape should a fire break out.
- Maintain adequate firebreaks around your property and form a safety zone around your house, using gravel or lawn that is kept short.
- Keep your home and garden free of debris such as dead leaves, branches or litter. You should also clean debris from roof surfaces and gutters.
- Cut down trees and bushes next to your home, or creepers on the walls and ensure that any dead branches on trees or bushes are removed.
- Store flammable objects away from your living areas, and where possible, install screens, shutters or heavy fire-resistant curtains.
- Provide enough distance between dwellings for emergency access and, where possible, have more than one exit from your dwelling.
- Ensure easy access and turning space for any emergency vehicles.
- It is good to have an escape plan in place. Ensure your whole family knows the plan.
Road Traffic Incidents
- It is important to be courteous, obey the rules of the road and treat other drivers as you would like to be treated in turn.
- Do not drive in a state that could compromise your focus – don’t drink and drive and make sure you are well rested if you are embarking on a long distance journey.
- Know your route, so that you are aware of the roads and turnoffs that you need to take. If you miss your turnoff, rather find another than swerve at the last minute.
- Stay alert while you drive – switch on the radio or talk to your passengers.
- Secure toddlers in baby or child seats and never leave a child or pet alone in a car.
- Very importantly, ensure that your vehicle is roadworthy.
- Ensure that you are adequately prepared in the event of a power failure: keep your cell phone fully charged when power is available, and keep cash and fuel reserves on hand.
- Keep temporary lighting such as candles and torches and a good quality gas lamp, readily available.
- In readiness for periods where there will be power outages, keep hot water at hand, as well as pre-prepared meals.
- Keep refrigerator doors closed. A power outage of up to four hours should not cause food spoilage, a freezer should keep frozen foods safe for at least a day and most medication requiring refrigeration can keep for several hours without spoiling, though you should check for confirmation with your doctor or pharmacist.
In planning for any hazard, man-made or natural, it is best to keep your entire family informed about the procedures to follow should an event occur.
“These tips form part of the City’s continuous drive to educate the public and make them aware of what they need to do, should one of these hazards occur. In keeping with our aims of being a Safe and Secure City, I encourage all families to make sure they are prepared for any eventuality, whether man-made or natural,” said Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, Alderman Jean-Pierre Smith.
By evaluating your own personal needs and making an emergency plan that fits those needs, you and your loved ones can be better prepared.
- For a comprehensive source on individual, family and community disaster preparedness, visit the website of the City of Cape Town’s Disaster Risk Management Centre or call 080 911 HELP (4357).