Cape Town to activate disaster operations centre

The City of Cape Town will on Monday activate its Disaster Operations Centre (DOC) to execute the City’s Water Disaster Plan which will take effect in the event of Day Zero.

Executive Director: Safety and Security, Richard Bosman, will be permanently seconded as Incident Commander to the DOC.

“While the City is focusing all its efforts on beating back Day Zero, we do need to be prepared for a scenario where we take control of the City’s water supply in order to extend it into the winter months. We will shut off supply to taps when our dams reach a collective level of 13.5%,” the City said in a statement on Sunday.

In order to avoid this, the City of Cape Town must reduce current consumption to 450 Megalitres of total consumption a day. This equates to 50 litres per person per day. Many Capetonians have reduced their consumption substantially over the past few months, and the City has called upon all residents to join in on the City’s savings drive.

Since March 2017, the City’s Water and Sanitation department has introduced various initiatives to lower water demand, including advanced pressure reduction to lower the rate at which water flows, and the installation of water meters to reduce consumption.

“We will continue with these initiatives over the next few weeks to extend our water supply for as long as possible,” it said.

Preparation for Day Zero

The City said once dam levels reach 13.5%, they will begin to shut down its reticulation system, except to key commercial areas and institutions such as hospitals.

Once this happens, residents will be able to access water from collection points across the City. Each resident will be allocated 25 litres of water a day.

There will be separate sections for pedestrian and vehicle access, as well as access for those collecting on behalf of vulnerable groups.

It will be the task of the DOC to manage the water collection points. A great deal of preparation is being done to ensure that this happens as efficiently as possible.

The City’s Disaster Risk Management Department has been consulting with the international community since early last year on how best to distribute water in a time of crisis.

The water collection points, which have received the lion’s share of the attention over the past weeks, are only one layer of the Disaster Plan.

Water tankers will be used to deliver water to vulnerable groups such as old age homes and care facilities.

“We are also engaging retailers and the bottled water association to ramp up their distribution networks to increase bottled water supply, so that those who do not want to use the water collection points can purchase water,” the City said.

The City said the detail around how these water collection points will be managed has captured much of the public’s attention and has created panic among people who begin to imagine what their lives will be like if they have to queue for water every day. “This crisis will demand a whole of society approach, where we all pull together to get through this.”

For the next two months the City of Cape Town will be trouble-shooting each Water Collection Point so that, if Day Zero arrives, people are able to collect water as quickly and safely as possible.

No one will be turned away

Many people have been concerned about how the amount of water people collect will be monitored.

“We want to stress that no one will be turned away from the Water Collection Points. All persons living in Cape Town will be entitled to collect water at these points. No one will be required to provide any identification to collect their daily allocation of water,” the City said.

The collection of water will only be regulated in order to prevent any one person from collecting far above their daily water allocation. Officials will be onsite to monitor potential abuse, and residents are also encouraged to report any abuse they witness.

Security at Water Collection Points

“We are busy categorising the Water Collection Points in terms of High Risk, Medium Risk and Low Risk and the deployment of security staff to these sites will be aligned to this rating,” the City said.

The services included in the deployment will be SAPS, Metro police, traffic and law enforcement. They will also look at involving community neighbourhood watches where feasible.

SAPS and the SANDF have confirmed that they will assist the City to secure the Water Collection Points. The deployment will include inner perimeter security as well as outer perimeter security. There will be static deployment as well as rotational vehicle patrols.

Weekly media briefing sessions

The City will hold weekly media briefing sessions at the Disaster Operations Centre to ensure that they are able to address the many concerns the public have about the Disaster Plan and Day Zero.