The Mayor of the City of Windhoek, Alderwoman Elaine Trepper, yesterday commissioned a "Bronco Sky-lift Mobile Aerial Hydraulic Platform (Fire-fighting and Rescue Unit)" at a ceremony outside City Hall.
The hydraulic platform is a sophisticated piece of equipment with a Scania P480 consisting of an 8X4 drive-train and a hydro-platform sky-lift 55 RLX.
"It is a top of the range model and fully electronic. It also has a telemetry system, meaning that if there is a problem, the manufacturers in Finland (Bronto) can access it from there and give a diagnosis to the people here in Windhoek. The electronic controls also make it safe for firemen, as it may prohibit the user to manoeuvre into positions that are dangerous," said Ian Newton, the General Manager at Fire Raiders Cape Town (Pty) Ltd.
The hydraulic platform was purchased through Fire Raiders in Cape Town and was manufactured by Bronto Sky-lift in Finland, who are specialists in design, manufacturing and servicing of platforms meant for rescue and fire-fighting applications.
"This commitment is also one of the pillars of the City's five-year Strategic Business Plan of 2010-2015, adopted in November 2011. In pursuance of this commitment, council approved the purchase of the Bronto Sky-lift Aerial Hydraulic Platform in 2007 to replace the 1978 30m Magirius Deutz Turntable Ladder Truck at the cost of N$12,5 million," Trepper said at the unveiling of the aerial hydraulic platform.
The Bronto Sky-lift Aerial Hydraulic Platform is a multifunctional vehicle mounted with a rescue ladder capable of reaching a height of 55 metres and "is arguably the best in the market due to its flexibility and compatibility to be launched on different types of surfaces and ability to be mounted on any structure. On top of that, this vehicle will enable us to meet the international baseline for responding to emergencies and substantially reduce fatalities from fire-related incidents, particularly from high-rise buildings," added the mayor.
The first rescue operation was performed on December 12, 2011 at Kenya House (30-metre high-rise building under construction) where a construction worker sustained serous injuries after his leg got entangled in steel cables of a giant crane operating some three metres above the roof.
The Bronto Sky-lift Hydraulic Platform was used to airlift the rescuers to the top floor to render assistance to the injured worker and safely brought him to the ground for transportation to hospital for further medical attention.
Moreover, 15 Emergency Management Services officers were trained on how to operate the vehicle, with some receiving training to train others.
According to Chief Executive Officer of Windhoek Municipality, Niilo Taapopi, the standard for community protection against fire stipulates that a model fire brigade must have at least one fireman per 1 000 residents.
The City, with a total of 109 fire-fighters only, is in the region of one fireman per 3 000 residents. Further to this, the City is confronted with a growing number of informal settlements.
In Windhoek alone, a 2009 study indicated there were 32 informal settlements, with 25 428 households and a total population of 118 467. These figures will become higher and the situation will be compounded by the recent alteration of the municipal boundaries that include Groot Aub, Aris, Kapps Farm and Khomas North.
The same assessment also identified the acute shortage of modern emergency and disaster-response equipment, as well as the replacement of ailing equipment, all of which resulted in the Council approving a 5-year Procurement Plan of Emergency Services Equipment.
"Let me take this opportunity to urge the men and women of the Emergency Management Services to jealously look after this equipment and to ensure that regular maintenance takes place. I would also like to use this opportunity to call upon property owners, building designers, occupants and occupational health safety representatives to provide fire protection through education and engineering ,as a strategy to achieve the best results in fire safety," concluded Trepper.