Smoke alarm project | Western Cape Government

Smoke alarm project

The Western Cape Department of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning have initiated an innovative smoke alarm installation programme for high fire risk communities.

According to the Department’s research, the majority of fire-related deaths occur during the sleeping hours at night, peaking at 1am, and the victims are often small children and the elderly. 

Most of these incidents could be prevented through a more coordinated and systematic approach.

Smoke alarms in the home provide an important early warning of fire, allowing people additional time to escape. According to research, if there is a quick discovery of the fire, there is faster reaction time and a better chance of escaping and survival. 

New, improved smoke alarm systems

The aim of the smoke alarm project is to identify and purchase the most appropriate smoke alarm for the high-risk environment and then install them in all high-risk occupancies.

Main outlines of the project are as follows: -

  • Ensuring that occupants have properly installed smoke alarms in all high-risk occupancies.
  • Reducing fire deaths, injuries and property losses.
  • Educating residents about the importance of installing and maintaining smoke alarms.
  • Assisting residents to develop and practice an effective home fire escape plan.
  • Assisting municipalities in meeting its legislative requirements under the Municipal Structures, Disaster Management and Fire Brigade Services act.
  • Creating positive public relations between the community and the municipal fire department.

The new smoke alarm system has been proven to detect smoke in less than 15 seconds. This will help raise the alarm of a fire danger quickly, lessen the level of smoke inhalation and in so doing, save lives.

“The biggest killer in a home fire is the smoke. When people are asleep, they cannot wake up from the smell of smoke. If a home fire does occur, the toxic smoke can cause the occupants to go into an even deeper sleep, until breathing stops altogether. The goal of this new project is to install smoke alarms in our vulnerable communities that will wake people up before it’s too late,” Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, Anton Bredell, said.

Watch the fire alarms and firefighters in action, helping us make fires less fatal by preventing tragedies before they have a chance to strike:

Fire is everyone’s fight

The Fire is Everyone's Fight campaign contains guidelines for using the posters with learners. It also includes suggestions for activities that reinforce key fire safety and emergency preparedness messages. Minister Bredell says it’s vital to educate communities about fires and fire prevention and in particular children.

“We have a responsibility to teach children the basics and to act responsibly around fire ourselves. We must continuously talk to our families and friends about the dangers of fire and what to do when it breaks out.”

The idea of the department’s Fire is Everyone's Fight campaign, is to help communities understand that fires can be prevented. 

Some key objectives include:

  • Reducing fire injuries and deaths in informal settlements.
  • Reducing property loss.
  • Limiting other residential fire losses. 

The new smoke alarm installation programme, is a key component of the Fire is Everyone’s Fight campaign. The project has already been successfully piloted in the Breede Valley district and was rolled out using a team of trained fire-fighters from the Breede Valley Fire Department.

Bredell says the low cost battery operated home smoke alarm, increases the chances of surviving a fire exponentially because it makes you aware of a fire earlier, which means that you and your family will have much more time to escape. 

Over the past year the following areas were identified and had smoke alarms installed:

  • City of Cape Town (Wallacedene, Khayelitsha)
  • Winelands District (Breedevalley)
  • Eden District (Hesaqwa, George, Mossel Bay, Knysna)
  • Overberg District (Grabouw, Overstrand, Bredarsdorp, Goniwe Park and Protea Heights, Struisbaai, Villiersdorp)
  • West Coast District
  • Drakenstein (Fairyland; Loverslane)
  • Kannaland (Ladismith Varkieskloof; Van Wyksdorp; Calitsdorp; Zoar)
  • BreedeValley
  • Witzenberg
  • Stellenbosch

Future municipalities that have requested alarms include, but are not limited to: -

  • Overberg (Swellendam)
  • Knysna (especially after the Knysna Fire incident there is a large focus on this area)

Having smoke alarms installed at your home

A team of trained firefighters, who are familiar with the high risk locations, visit informal settlements and do the installation of the smoke alarms for the occupants. 

Diagram to install smoke alarms

Home escape plan

Along with having smoke alarms installed, it's also essential that an effective home fire escape plan be implemented and practiced by the whole family to ensure a quick and easy escape.

While installing the smoke alarms, the firefighters also assist the occupants with the development of an effective escape plan. This includes drawing the floor plan of the house, indicating 2 escape routes from each room as well as having a pre-determined safe meeting place outside the home.

In addition, each family member must know to crawl low under smoke and how to call the fire department out. 

Fire escape plan

Reporting fires

When reporting fires, you can also contact your closest local district municipality.

  • Toll-free emergency number: 112 from cell phone or 10177 from a landline toll free.
  • City of Cape Town: 021 480 7700
  • Overberg: 028 425 1690
  • West Coast: 022 433 8700
  • Eden: 044 805 5071
  • Central Karoo: 023 414 2603
  • Cape Winelands: 021 887 4446
The content on this page was last updated on 15 March 2019