Emergency response for an aerotropolis city

Published:  19 October, 2011

The city of Ekurhuleni in the East Rand region of Gauteng, South Africa, is preparing to reposition itself as an aerotropolis city – Chief Fire Officer Joe Makhubalo explains what this means for his fire service.

During the state of the city address in April the Executive Mayor pronounced that the City of Ekurhuleni would become an aerotropolis city - an urban form whose layout, infrastructure, and economy is centered on an airport, offering its businesses speedy connectivity to suppliers, customers, and enterprise partners worldwide.

The aerotropolis concept was identified as the new economic growth path and repositioning vehicle for Ekurhuleni. The features of an aerotropolis city include capabilities such a reliable and accessible rail, road and air infrastructure; a digital city to attract blue chip companies; and related real estate (accommodation/office space) including conferencing infrastructure for executives.

While the aerotropolis concept is still new, Ekurhuleni’s emergency services have laid plans towards achieving a reduction in adverse emergency incidents and communities within the city, so that business can be carried out in a protected and safe environment.

Emergency services resources must fit like a glove around the aerotropolis concept, which will be launched formally during the Airport Cities World Conference and Exhibition (commonly known as ACE), which takes place in Ekurhuleni in 2013.

Looking closely at the concept – and not forgetting that the city is also an economic hub for manufacturing petrochemical industries and encompasses two airports – Ekurhuleni Emergency Service has come up with a strategy and concept that is being shared with the local community and businesses.

On the 1st of September 2011 Ekurhuleni Emergency Service received a new emergency service vehicle, and hosted in Vosloorus Fire station a passing-out parade consisting of community members that had been trained under a Community Emergency Response Team program. The MMC Community Safety Councilor Mthuthuzeli Siboza delivered the keynote address at the event.

The following Emergency services resources were also delivered:

9 x rapid response firefighting vehicles.

2 x foam tenders.

3 x breathing apparatus trailers.


Foam tenders

The specification, design and manufacture of the two foam tenders has been described as the “first of its kind” within the African continent.

The underlying design for the new vehicles revolves around the risks surrounding the new metro system that will be supporting the aerotropolis concept. The vehicles carry 7,000 litres of foam and 350 kg of dry chemical powder, and Ekurhuleni Emergency Service has spent 2.9 million South African Rand to purchase each vehicle.


Rapid response firefighting

Due to the fact that Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality has 119 informal settlements, the emergency service has developed strategic objectives to reduce adverse incidents and fatalities.

The specifications for the rapid response vehicles were specifically developed to meet the challenges posed by informal settlements, which cannot be accessed by normal firefighting machines. The vehicles are designed to fight structural fires and grass fires, and carry 600 litres of water and 500 litres of foam.

Each vehicle is fitted with a two-stage centrifugal pump (which provides volume and pressure) and proportioner, and the equipment can work with a hydrant or water tender.


Breathing apparatus trailers

Ekurhuleni Emergency Service have 27 fire stations, and the supply of SCBA during major incident has been a challenge for all fire teams. The trailers will be placed in three strategic fire stations, with each trailer covering nine fire stations. When needs arise they can be drawn simultaneously to a single incident.


Community emergency response program

This initiative is an ongoing intervention process that aims to reduce the adverse incidents within informal settlements. In the previous financial year the emergency service has trained 135 community members recruited from the Ramaphosa, Villa Lisa, and Dukathole settlements.

The recruitment of the community members is carried out through the Ward Councilor and the ward committee, while the Emergency Services Public Education Information and Relation section is the custodian of the program.


New fire stations

As part of the Integrated Development Plan, Ekurhuleni Emergency Services is building three fire stations in Tsakane, Duduza and Zonkizizwe.

In Tsakane construction has already started and is at an advanced stage – the opening of the station is envisaged in 2012. Work on the remaining two began in August this year, with full support from the MMC Community Safety Clr Mthuthuzeli Siboza and the Portfolio Councilors.



Both senior management and firefighters of Ekurhuleni Emergency Services are committed to creating a world-class emergency service for the community of Ekurhuleni. 

  • Operation Florian

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