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Byo municipal buildings ill-equipped for emergencies

Albert Nxumalo

Bulawayo City Council’s three main buildings – the City Hall, Tower Block and Revenue Hall – are ill equipped to deal with security emergencies amid revelations that they lack basic security features and evacuation plans to prevent maximum damage.

The iconic buildings have no fire alarm systems with some fire extinguishers having no water and “too much fuel in almost all offices at Revenue Hall,” a recent Council report indicates.

Workers claimed that they were not aware of the local authority’ ”Safety and Health Policy existed because they had never seen it or even heard about it”.

This came up during a workshop in February on emergency preparedness and response training workshop for council incident officers.

Council’s incident officers  were   equipped  with  the  emergency  procedures  and  how  to  react  in case of  an  emergency  or  disaster.

According to the General Purposes Committee report, the objectives of the workshop included equipping the incident officers with  appropriate skills on managing emergency situations at workstations, giving an  update on  the roles  and responsibilities  of  incident  officers  and discussing the evacuation  procedure.

The report indicates,  participants  were  asked  to  identify  hotspots  in  their  work  stations  that  could  result  in breakout of  emergency  situations.

The entire City Hall building which houses the offices of the Mayor, Town Clerk and Chamber Secretary has no fire alarm system.

“It  was also  pointed out that  City  Hall had  no  fire  alarm  system  and  it  was  difficult  to  alert  the  occupants  and  visitors  inside  the  building  in case  of  an  emergency,” reads the report.

One  participant  brought  up  the  point  that  incident  officers  needed identification  so  that  people  in the building would  know who  to approach  when an  incident  occurred.

There is no visitors register by the main entrance, no fire extinguisher or sprinklers and escape routes are blocked, the report said.

City Hall was also viewed as not secure as it was “prone to demonstrations from members of the public.”

Council Chambers have no escape route.

As a stopgap measure for  an  evacuation  plan  at  City  Hall   ‘participants  suggested  that  incident officers should be given whistles to  blow for  the time  being “since  there  was  no  fire  alarm.”

With regards to Revenue Hall, incident officers noted that the offices were crowded, there were congested electrical cables, hanging live electrical wires, no fire extinguishers and no fire escape direction signage.

It was revealed that very few staff members know how to use the fire extinguisher with sand buckets now used as dust bins.

” Participants  commented  on  the  observations  and  they  pointed  out  that  there  was  too  much fuel  in almost  all  offices at  Revenue Hall,” added the report.

The report further said there was  need  to  acquaint  all  staff  members  about  safety and  health  issues.

” One  participant  pointed out  that office  handover  should  be  inclusive of  health and safety  issues.  They  raised  an  issue  that  they  do  not  even  know  that  a  Safety  and  Health  Policy existed because they  had never seen  it  or even  heard  about it,” reads the reports.

At Tower  Block , participants indicated that plugs and  switches were broken,  some  floors  had  no  fire  extinguishers  and  some  fire  extinguishers  were  not  serviced and they had   no  water.

They also observed naked wires, fire extinguishers with no pin and some extinguishers were used as door holders.

On the way forward, more regular meetings and setting up of WhatsApp chat groups to improve communication among incident officers, were proposed.

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