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.