How to Protect Your Home Against Floods and Fires | Western Cape Government

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How to Protect Your Home Against Floods and Fires

20 May 2014

Floods and fires 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 damages that floods and fires can cause, and how best to deal with them.

The Western Cape Government's Disaster Management team helps the victims of floods and fires by providing rapid response and effective recovery of lost property.

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

  • Mitigation: This phase aims to minimise the effects of a disaster through public education.
  • Preparedness: This involves planning and incorporates regular emergency exercise drills and warning systems.
  • Response: This step focuses on measures taken to minimise hazards such as search and rescue and emergency relief.
  • Recovery: Officials make efforts to assist the community by providing temporary housing, grants and medical support.

A flood occurs when there is a rise in the water level in a specific area until there is too much water for that area to absorb. Floods can be caused by too much rain, blocked rivers and streams, weakened dam walls or storm surges (waves 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’s sewerage system and draining canals are not big enough to drain 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 other items that can increase the risk of 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, a multi-tool, whistle and emergency contact numbers.
  • Check the 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 from emergency authorities.
  • Turn off all electricity and water and take your cellphone with you.
  • Assist elderly and 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 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 (from a cellphone) and 10177 from a landline.
  • Report floods, blocked drains and service disruption to 0860 103 089.
  • City of Cape Town Disaster Risk Management Centre: 080 911 4357.

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.

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.
  • 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).

Contact your Local District Municipality for Reporting Fires

  • City of Cape Town - 107 or 021 480 7700 from a cellphone
  • Overberg - 028 425 1690
  • West Coast - 022 433 8700
  • Eden - 044 805 5071
  • Central Karoo - 023 414 2603
  • Cape Winelands - 021 887 4446

Some useful information from Disaster Management: