Protecting Your Home against Floods and Fires

(Department of Local Government, Western Cape Government)

Floods and fire outbreaks are hazards that can happen at any time. If the proper measures are not in place, these hazards could become disasters. To prevent the loss of lives and property, everybody needs to be aware of the dangers that floods and fires can cause, and how best to deal with these disasters.

Floods and Fire

Disaster Management

The Western Cape Government's Disaster Management team aims to help the victims of disasters such as floods and fires by providing rapid response and effective recovery of lost property.

A disaster management cycle has been developed to illustrate the ongoing process by which government, businesses and civil society plan for and reduce the impact of disasters. The four phases include:

  • Mitigation: Aims to minimise the effects of a disaster by means of public education.
  • Preparedness: Involves planning and how to respond to a disaster by having regular emergency exercise drills and warning systems in place.
  • Response: Steps taken to minimise the hazards such as search and rescue and emergency relief.
  • Recovery: Efforts made to return the community to normal such as providing temporary housing, grants and medical aid.

What is a Flood?
A flood is when there is a rise in water level in the same area until there is too much water for that area to absorb. Floods can be caused by either too much rain in a short space of time, ongoing rain in the same area, blocked rivers and streams, failure in dam walls or storm surges (waves being driven ashore by strong winds).

What Causes Flooding in Residential Areas?
Urban flooding is caused by a lack of drainage. Heavy rain can cause flooding when the city sewage system and draining canals are not big enough to drain away the rainwater.

How Can I Prepare for a Flood?

  • Identify the risk in your local area.
  • Prepare a home emergency plan, and identify risks around your home.
  • Fix faults like leaking water pipes and remove leaves or any items that can cause flooding in your area.
  • Have an evacuation plan. Everyone in your family has to know where to find shelter.
  • Prepare an emergency toolkit. This should include: a first aid kit, torch and portable radio with batteries, candles and waterproof matches, drinking water, multi-tool, a whistle to signal for help and emergency contact numbers.
  • Check your insurance cover on your house contents and vehicles.

What Should I Do during a Flood?

  • Monitor current flood warnings. Listen to the radio for emergency warnings, evacuation advice and weather updates.
  • Avoid entering floodwater unless it is necessary, and never underestimate the strength of floodwater, even if you are inside a vehicle.
  • Follow all instructions by emergency authorities.
  • Turn off all electricity and water, and take your cellphone with you.
  • Assist the elderley or disabled neighbours.

What Should I Do after the Flood?

  • Before entering your house, wait until the water has dropped below floor level.
  • Check with electricity, gas and water authorities to know whether it is safe for you to use these resources.
  • Be aware of contamination if water sources have been flooded; this could be unsafe to drink.

Contact these Emergency Numbers:

  • 112 or 021 480 7700 from a cellphone.
  • 107 from a landline.
  • Report floods, blocked drains and service disruption: 0860 103 089.
  • Disaster Risk Management Centre: 080 911 4357.
  • Contact your local district municipality.

What are the Common Causes of Fires?
Most fires are caused by electrical faults or carelessness. Cigarettes, matches and lighters, candles, heating appliances and equipment such as electric blankets can all cause fires if not carefully monitored.

What if a Fire Breaks out in My House?

  • Warn people inside the house to get out safely.
  • Help people to get out and stay out of harm's way.
  • Crawl out below the smoke to escape the fire.
  • Call the Emergency Services on 107.

The following tips will help to keep you and your family safe from fire:

Using Electricity Safely

  • Do not overload your electrical circuits. Don't keep more than four plugs on one extension (eg with your heater, your kettle, your stove).
  • Service your electrical components regularly and replace faulty ones.
  • Switch off all electrical appliances at the wall at night or when leaving your home.

Safety around an Open Flame

  • Keep matches and lighters out of children's reach.
  • Cut candles in half to prevent them falling over and use a candle holder.

General Safety

  • Keep a well-maintained fire extinguisher in your house, and know how to use it.
  • If you have a garden hose, keep it rolled up and ready in case of fire.
  • Where possible, have more than one exit from your house.
  • Have an escape plan, and make sure that the whole family knows the plan.
  • Do not park in the way of a fire hydrant (and remind your neighbours and visitors to do the same).

Always call the City's Fire and Rescue Services before you make any attempt to fight a fire yourself.

Contact these Emergency Numbers:

  • 112 or 021 480 7700 from a cellphone.
  • 107 or 10177 from a landline.
  • Disaster Risk Management Centre: 080 911 4357.
  • Contact your local district municipality.

For more information, you can visit the City of Cape Town website.

Sources: Disaster Management and City of Cape Town.

The content on this page was last updated on 15 March 2014