Share this article

Old age homes and homes for disabled people are being targeted in a winter safety campaign by emergency management services and disaster management.
ZODWA Khumalo, a 49-year-old disabled woman living at Itlhokomeleng Association for Aged and Disabled Persons in Alexandra, has been living in fear since fire claimed the lives of 12 elderly people at the Struisbult Care Centre in Springs, Ekurhuleni on 13 June.


EMS staffGogos are taught how to respond to a fire alarmBut she feels more confident now, thanks to the City’s disaster management department and emergency management services (EMS), as she now knows what to do in the event of fire.

Khumalo was among more than 30 senior citizens who gathered on 7 July at the home, on the corner of London Road and Eighth Avenue in Alexandra, to receive fire safety tips. She has been living at the home since 2002, and recent news reports about fire had terrified her and given her sleepless nights.

But she was happy that disaster management officials had visited before anything happened to them. “We are glad that we will not burn because we now know what to do when we see fire and that we should call 10177,” she said.

The group was also taught how to respond when a fire alarm went off, and about emergency evacuation. “If [the alarm] rings we were told to go outside even if it is at night, so that we do not burn,” she said.

Simple actions could cause fire, the residents of the home were told. They were urged not to smoke in bed or overload electrical plugs. They were also taught how to use fire extinguishers.

Sepheu Nkoele, a disaster management officer, clarified the role of the unit in times of distress. “We find alternative safe places for victims of disasters,” he said.

The visit by the EMS and disaster management department was part of an annual winter safety campaign, during which the two units teach safety awareness at old age homes, orphanages and disabled homes around Johannesburg.

Disaster management officials encouraged the home to choose an emergency team from staff members. These people would represent the home should anything happen. The department would also help the team draw up an evacuation plan for the home.

Thembani Old Age Home, in the same area, was visited by the two departments last month.

According to Percy Morokane, the EMS spokesperson, this is a year-long programme. “We also have a summer campaign where we raise awareness about safety in parks and swimming pools, and the dangers of lightning and floods,” he said.


Related stories:

Task team enforces by-laws
EMS 'must focus on work'
Joburg looks at old age homes
Safety tips for winter
Family learns flood lessons