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​​“We’re creating a nation of youth safety ambassadors. It’s a key strategy in creating safer spaces in our schools and community at large.”

Addressing 500 learners at the Orlando Communal Hall on Tuesday, May 8 2018, Johannesburg Emergency Management Services (EMS) Acting Chief Mhlengi Makhubalo, said: 

“Introducing Life Safety Education to our communities play a critical role in assisting the reduction of emergency incidents. Because when emergencies strike, the personnel on scene are the first line of protection and defence.”

Speaking in between gravity-defying dance moves and choreographed drills by the South African Fire Youth Academy, Chief Makhubalo told the graduation ceremony of 500 learners from all the Cities regions who earlier this year took part in an intensive two-week basic fire-fighting and First Aid course.

Through School Emergency Response Teams (SERT) programme, Joburg EMS has been reaching out to schools and offering training for schools to be able to react in an emergency.

“The City is building a resilient community, hence School Emergency Response Teams were introduced at schools because learners can cascade information easily to all families. 

“Life safety education assists to reduce fire incidents and medical emergencies. Furthermore the program is rolled out to the communities as Community Response Teams,” said Chief Makhubalo.

Plans are afoot to roll out the training to teachers so that they can command and control incidents at school. 

“The teachers will be able to manage the incident until professionals arrive on the scene,” said Chief Makhubalo.

Programme director and EMS Divisional Head Synock Matobako called on the graduates to become the first line of defence for EMS officials.

“Our EMS officers have been coming under attack when they respond to emergencies. Communities are denied fast response times because ambulances are being hijacked and EMS and JMPD officials attacked or even killed. SERT Team members must help residents report these crimes to authorities,” said Matobako.

Gauteng Education Department’s Solly Mabunda remarked that teachers could see significant changed behaviour from learners who were part of the SERT programme. “Those on the programme are more disciplined and have a sense of purpose in life.”

South African Fire Youth Academy graduate, 20-year-old Kelebogile Mokhabudi said the training has changed her way of thinking.

“The programme has made me a better person and ensured I don’t live a reckless life as a result of peer pressure,” Mokhabudi said.