Cape Town -111010. Operators from the Disaster Risk Management Centre ,Chevon Miller and Wayde Cleophas, on a routine drill in the Disaster Operation Call Centre, which was officially opened today . Reporter: Bronwyn. Pic: Jason Boud

Cape Town has launched its disaster risk management centre, ready to respond to anything from a nuclear meltdown to the fires and floods which occur routinely in the city and its surrounding areas.

The Goodwood-based disaster risk management centre, which was launched on Monday, actually opened last year, said JP Smith, mayoral committee (Mayco) member for safety and security. But now, he said, it was “properly operational”.

Smith said the city was confident the centre, staffed by 83 employees, was primed to handle a range of possible disasters.

“It is designed to deal with (everything from) a nuclear disaster at Koeberg to the routine fire and floods.”

He explained that the centre’s staff were ready, at any time, to put more than 70 different contingency plans in place. These catered for anything from plane crashes to hazardous spills from tankers.

Smith said Monday’s launch was timed to coincide with the UN’s International Strategy for Disaster Reduction campaign.

The campaign is being run under the banner of “Making Cities Resilient”.

The UN, he said, had a list of 10 checkpoints for disaster risk centres. The minimum requirement to meet was five, but the city had achieved eight.

According to Smith, the Goodwood centre was one of the first in the province to operate 24 hours a day, every day.

“We are very excited. This is an important milestone,” he said, adding that it was proof of how seriously the city took the Disaster Act.

Of the offices at the centre, Smith explained that it had been purpose-built, which meant it was “practical, well-designed, with no excessive expenditure”.

At the centre, incident reports were streamed live on to screens, a log was kept, and the response from the different departments was monitored.

Monday’s launch also marked the disaster risk management’s website going live.

According to a statement on the UN website, it was targeting city mayors and local governments to be the key drivers of the “Making Cities Resilient” campaign.

“Local governments are the institutional level closest to the citizens and to their communities. They play the first role in responding to crises and emergencies, and in attending to the needs of their constituencies. They deliver essential services to their citizens, which need to be made resilient to disasters,” the site says.

Among the aims of the campaign, it adds, is to ensure that there is sufficient political commitment to disaster risk reduction.

Smith said the city had spent more than R60 million on disaster management during the past five years.

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