Volunteers get own base

2016-11-22 09:56
Marilyn Africa, Athlone’s disaster risk management (DRM) volunteer coordinator, officially unveiled the new DRM centre at the Athlone Civic Centre last Saturday. Here the ribbon is cut by from left: JP Smith, Mayco member, Africa, Tiana Jacobs, Rashid Adams, ward 49 councillor, and John-Bayly Brown, head of training and capacity building of the DRM volunteer corps.

Marilyn Africa, Athlone’s disaster risk management (DRM) volunteer coordinator, officially unveiled the new DRM centre at the Athlone Civic Centre last Saturday. Here the ribbon is cut by from left: JP Smith, Mayco member, Africa, Tiana Jacobs, Rashid Adams, ward 49 councillor, and John-Bayly Brown, head of training and capacity building of the DRM volunteer corps.

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The City of Cape Town’s safety and security directorate officially opened a new disaster risk management (DRM) volunteer centre at the Athlone Civic Centre last Saturday. This was one of three centres opened on the day, adding to the 10 other active DRM volunteer bases across the city.

The City’s Mayco member for safety and security JP Smith says that funding was provided via the Urban Settlements Development Grant.

“The facility cost R1m and comprises separate toilet/shower facilities for males and females (wheelchair-friendly), a fully kitted out kitchen, an open plan training/meeting area for 50 people and an office and store-room. There are ramps both in and out of the facility,” he says.

Ward 49 councillor Rashid Adams was glad that another project in the ward has come to fruition. Adams says the establishment of the DRM volunteer centre was initiated by a resident of the area who herself served as a volunteer, but in an entirely different area.

Suzette Little, the then ward councillor, took it upon herself to approach the city to establish a centre in Athlone. Before the building of the centre, Little provided office space in the ward 49 council offices.

“They used to use our offices as their base. They used to work every Friday and Saturday. Then they started working extra days in the week, but there was always a hive of activity taking place. Whenever there was something that happened, the team used to be there.

“Through the help of Little, they got themselves uniforms, because they were operating without a uniform. Then they got them a vehicle. Now they have an additional vehicle or two,” says Adams.

The new base will serve as a central meeting and deployment point for the various volunteer units across the city. Smith adds that the volunteers receive first-aid training from Level 1 to Level 3 and beyond, provided there is funding. In addition, they also receive community-based risk assessment training.

“The vision is that this facility provides not only a base for the volunteers, but a facility that can be used during disaster-related incidents in the area, e.g. providing food, issuing of clothes or serving as a medical post,” says Smith.

The volunteer corps has nearly 500 active members who help in the City’s emergency services with humanitarian relief operations and fire fighting, among other things, such as delivering newborn babies, as Adams explains.

“Little and I were together one day when we saw a young man being stabbed in front of the Athlone Civic Centre on Klipfontein Road. I picked up my phone and got hold of Riolane. So we managed to get to the place and they responded and they were able to stabilise this guy until the ambulance came. They worked effectively and we were totally amazed.

“A few weeks later, we also discovered that there was a woman giving birth along the road and the same happened. The type of work that they do is phenomenal.”
The initial site requested by Little was in Nantes Park, but once funds were allocated for the erection of the structure at the end of last year, it was decided that Athlone Civic Centre would the best location.

“This centre is not yet fully utilised, it is not always active, but they work over the weekends because of certain constraints. It is meaningful for the community to know that they can call the base to come out and assist them. I know that they assisted when a couple of shootings took place,” adds Adams. Adams says he would like to see the volunteer group in the area grow and become less restricted in carrying out their duties.

“We found out that there are times when they are restrained and that they cannot actually go out and attend to a patient because there is red tape involved which does not allow them to do what they want to do.

“[The volunteers] play a meaningful role when organisations have public events in the area. They are always called upon and are always on standby to attend to the medical eventualities which could take place. They play such a good role and they need to see the group being taken out. I just want to see them grow,” Adams says.

He said he would also like to see the DRM volunteers team up with the various neighbourhood watch groups in the area.

“Neighbourhood watches are often called to crime scenes where something has taken place and they need extra and immediate assistance. The neighbourhood watch does not have the expertise to deal with it, so they call the police. By that time something else could have happened.

“If [the neighbourhood watch members] know disaster risk is on duty, they can call them and ask them to assist until an ambulance comes.

“I have also asked them to invite me to come along when they do operations, because I would like to get involved and see for myself what they actually do.”

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