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SHOPPING centres were the latest venues in the quest by Joburg’s emergency management services (EMS) to teach people about fire safety. The outreach came after recent fires at the Princess Crossing and Highlands North shopping centres.

Joburg Growth and Development Strategy 2040: Community SafetyAccording to the EMS’s media liaison officer, Robert Mulaudzi, these visits were very important given the number of call outs received lately about fires in shopping centres. On 16 and 17 June, EMS officials travelled to the Westgate, Clearwater, Boulders, Flora, and Horizon View shopping centres.

Asking the question, “Is your shop safe?”, the visits focused on gas safety, electricity, emergency numbers, and how to put out fires when they are in their early stages.

People were given pamphlets that contained information and tips, such as check pipes, gas bottles and appliances regularly to see whether they are leaking, rusted or damaged; keep all electric wires and plugs away from water and steam; and don’t run electric wires under carpets, where they can get damaged easily.

Mulaudzi noted that many shops did not comply with the City’s fire safety by-laws, and many shop owners and managers not even aware of them. He said many of them didn’t even have water to put out a fire; nor did they have suitable exit routes.

Is your Shop safe?
Asked about the next step, he explained that following the awareness phase, EMS officials would re-visit the shopping centres during the enforcement phase and either hand warnings to those who failed to comply with fire regulations, or fine them. Visits have also been planned for other shopping centres.

About small fires, the EMS pamphlet encouraged the use of the PASS method: pull out the safety pin of a fire extinguisher; aim it at the base of the flames; squeeze the trigger to make sure that it is working; and sweep the nozzle of the extinguisher from side to side across the base of the flames.

Shopping centre officials were urged to be prepared for a real fire. They were advised that when a smoke alarm sounded, they should get out immediately.

“Always choose the escape route that is safest – the one with the least amount of smoke and heat – but be prepared to escape under toxic smoke if necessary,” read the pamphlet. “Under no circumstances should you ever go back into a burning building. Report that a person is missing to the first responding fire engine.”

In an emergency dial 10177 from a landline or 112 from a cellphone, or in Johannesburg 011 375 5911.

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