By: SAESI education committee, chief fire officer H Steyn, deputy chief fire officer A Bruon and divisional officer M Mommson of Midvaal Fire and Rescue.
Every day you read about some kind of tragedy that has occurred because there was not enough man power, equipment or material. Every day we go about our daily schedule expecting all will be normal. But we plan for our every-day activities. if you go shopping, you plan to have money to pay for your items or if you go on holiday you will plan your accommodation in advance. In other words, we anticipate and prepare for the demands of daily living. The big question then is why do people not prepare for emergency evacuation at work or at home?
What can us as emergency workers do to assist the public? An emergency, whether it is a fire/medical emergency or natural disaster, is almost always unexpected. It demands fast clear decisions followed by quick actions in a stressful environment that may have darkened exit routes because of a smoke filled environment. Any home, workplace or other, is at risk to manmade or natural disasters, which could lead to loss of life or damage to property. So why not plan or prepare yourself (Community) with an emergency preparedness (Evacuation) plan. Regular exercises and making people aware of possible dangers will reduce panic during emergency situations and will make people more confident because they will know what to do in a calmly and almost relaxed method.
What does the word emergency situation mean to you? This is any undesired situation occurring because of natural causes or created by man, which could endanger human lives, harm the environment, or negatively influence your house hold or work place. Evacuation is a very important word and this means; to evacuate people in an organised manner from a dangerous environment through a safe planned evacuation route, to a safe assembly area.
So in other words emergency preparedness is the preparation made to eliminate or reduce the effect of emergency situations.
How can you plan and what must be done to properly meet the threats presented by unplanned, emergency incidents? What processes, equipment, emergency teams and material must be available? The answer is easy, P.I.E.R. Training for the public, educate the public. Where do we start is a question that is difficult to answer because of so many different types of emergency, but we need to start somewhere.
One of the first things we need to teach the public is to phone the correct number for the different type of emergency, because phoning the wrong number will delay the correct emergency department to arrive or it will take longer for the information to reach the correct emergency department etc: Phone Fire Department for a fire and not SAPS for a fire. Ensure they know the correct emergency phone numbers. In an emergency the best trained person can panic, and when you panic you usually hit blank when it comes to number, please teach yourself and other to practise the following.
For Example: Take your phone and enter your local Emergency Provider number save it as follow – 911 Fire Department / 911 Net care / 911 ER24 / 911 Provincial Ambulance / 911 SAPS / 911 Father or Mom or 911 In case of Emergency, if you open your phone book the 911 will always show first and that will prevent you from searching for numbers under pressure. If you do not have a cell phone, place the numbers near your phone. We also need to teach the public evacuation priorities. Let’s look at the Priorities; the first priority is “Protection of Life”, this priority is to ensure that all people who may be in danger are warned, and that action is taken to guarantee their safety. This is usually done before any steps are taken to prevent the spread of hazards, to secure assets, or to eliminate the hazards. Remember assets can be replaced but a life can’t be replaced.
The second priority is “Prevent spread of Hazard”, this priority aims at controlling the extent of the hazard within the occupancy and minimising its release into the environment by teaching the public the importance of fire walls / good house-keeping and an early warning device can all be part of the process to assist in controlling and prevent the spread of hazards.
The third priority is “Save assets in the affected area”, this priority is to prevent assets from being damaged, for example in the event of a fire, if we teach the public the victim. The fourth priority is “Eliminate the hazards”, this priority is the final priority and is there to eliminate the hazard, by teaching the public the basic use of a Fire Extinguisher or the use of a Fire Ball they can extinguish the fire while the fire is still small and controllable. The price of fire extinguisher v/s the price of an entire house is definitively something to think of.
By preparing yourself or your family you can prevent a lot. If the following basic requirements are kept in mind and applied everyday in your own life and work situation, you may contribute towards minimising the effect of a menace or at least become aware of it before it becomes a threat.
Before an emergency it is your duty to take note of happenings that may endanger your life and property. Everyone should accept the concerns for safety of life and property.
Make sure that your house keeping is in place. Discipline yourself to purposely take precautions for ensuring the safety of yourself and your family and not to do anything that may endanger life or property.
Escape tips that can save your life:
You may not be able to reach your children in the event of a fire for a lot of different reasons, so your children should learn how to escape on their own to safety. Please take note that children under the age of 3 years should participate in home fire drills, but realistically they may not be able to escape on their own in a real fire emergency.
Children to be taught the emergency plan and escape on their own
Arrange for very young children to sleep in an area that is easily reach and have easy escape route – always plan in advance.
As part of your escape plan, designate someone to take responsibility for helping young children.