Smoke alarms for Hangberg

Volunteers with City of Cape Town officials working on installing 500 new smoke alarms at the Hangberg Informal Development Area.

Residents living in the Hangberg Informal Development Area (HIDA) could breathe a sigh of relief on Saturday July 20, when 500 smoke alarms were installed to tackle the outbreak of fires.

The City of Cape Town’s disaster risk management, along with more than 30 volunteers from Mitchell’s Plain, Melkbosstrand and Fish Hoek, gathered to start the installation of the 500 single unit smoke detectors, which offers a 10-year custom designed battery, fitted for use only in the device, costing approximately R100 000. 

Disaster risk management centre spokesperson, Mandy Thomas, said the smoke alarms installed in HIDA  was thanks to the help of a generous “anonymous donor”. 

“The installation was possible because of 38 awesome disaster risk management volunteers who gave up their Saturday to assist DRM staff to install the alarms,” Ms Thomas said.

HIDA resident Ashleigh Ardendorf, said she was relieved to learn about the new smoke detectors as she fears being faced with the possibility of losing everything in a blaze.

“I have seen families torn apart because of a fire. They lose everything, even their family members. It’s a very scary thought actually and hopefully now with the new detectors, we can try and prevent this from happening to us,” she excitedly said. 

The mother of three was lucky to escape unscathed earlier this year when a small fire broke out three doors away from her home. But a rapid response from neighbours had stopped the fire from spreading. 

“Even though it only spread to two houses, we were very lucky to escape. It was proof that this can happen to anyone and any time. Just a small spark and everything goes up in smoke,” said Ms Ardendorf. 

“Now we have smoke detectors and now we can even be alerted when there is a fire at somebody else’s place. It’s very satisfying and makes you feel a bit more safe in your home.”

The last major fire to have broken out in the area occurred in October last year, which saw approximately 40 families being affected, but ever since, the area has been plagued by smaller fires.

Another resident who was happy to receive the smoke detector was Allan Fredericks, a 56-year-old welder living in his three-bedroom house with his three children and wife.

“It just feels safer knowing there is something to help you fight the fire and save as many things as you can,” he said.

He explained that many times, it is “too late to respond” and families have to rush out of their homes with nothing.

“The saddest part is watching that family, especially a hardworking family, stand and watch their home go up in flames. They are basically watching all the hard work go up in smoke. But with the detectors, it alerts you early enough and gives the people enough time to fight the fire or escape and save whatever you can,” Mr Fredericks said.

The HIDA area was divided into 10 grids of 50 households and the City’s teams began installing the alarms, which created plenty of excitement in the area. This alarm will sound and wake occupants of a bungalow or structure, and enable immediate action to be taken by the resident and neighbours.

The City’s fire and rescue services spokesperson, Jermaine Carelse, said since the beginning of the year, there have been nine informal structure fire incidents in the area.

“There is always a risk of fire, whether in informal settlements or formal residential areas. Like many other risks to community health and safety, fire prevention requires collective effort. The City works continuously to increase its level of education and awareness in communities,” Mr Carelse said.

“The smoke alarms act as an early warning detection system for fires. This device will make it possible for people to hear if there is a fire in a structure and either extinguish it or call for assistance. Furthermore, the noise the device emits will wake up the occupiers of the structure or their neighbours and alert them to the danger,” Mr Carelse explained.

Ward councillor, Roberto Quintas, said the smoke from these fires ran the risk of “rendering persons unconscious due to smoke inhalation”.

“This can not only potentially prove fatal, but will also delay response time to small blazes and result in larger blazes affecting more households. The fires plague our informal settlements and backyarders, which tend to occur in the early hours of the morning, when families are asleep,” Mr Quintas said.

The City also took the time out to hand out Flood-Wise pamphlets, providing recipients with useful and important information and contact details focused on flood safety and relief.

“A huge vote of thanks must be given to the donors who made this possible, and the volunteers who have given of their time to assist in Hout Bay,” Mr Quintas said, also thanking the Peace and Mediation Forum representatives, who assisted in the community facilitation alongside the City’s disaster risk management team.

“It was a privilege to be present, thank volunteers individually and personally, and introduce the concept and roll out to community members. Moments like these see the caring and safe city in action, where business, individuals and government come together to make process possible, together,” he added.

To report any fires, contact the City’s fire and rescue services on the emergency number 021 480 7700 or dial 107 from a landline.