MOSSEL BAY NEWS - Mossel Bay Municipality is reassessing its contingency plan to provide for any eventuality that may stem from prolonged load shedding or even blackouts.
The purpose of this plan is to mitigate any situation that may arise from the loss of key electricity transmission lines or infrastructure supplied by Eskom to the municipality.
Noting concerns raised by energy experts about sustainable electricity supply, Mossel Bay municipal manager Adv Thys Giliomee instructed the head of Fire and Disaster Management Services, Joseph Johnston, to revise the council-approved contingency plan to ensure that whatever risk may result from a possible national blackout will be mitigated and effectively dealt with.
"It is clear the national power supply is more precarious than previously understood. In February, Eskom general manager for the Western Cape Operational Unit, Alwie Lester, briefed Premier Helen Zille, mayors and municipal managers of all local authorities in the province at the most recent coordination meeting on the possibly unsustainable supply of electricity the country is facing.
"For the first time ever since Saturday, 16 March, repeated Stage 4 load shedding over a prolonged period became a South African reality and it is imperative, considering the possible risk to residents, to plan effectively for any eventuality," Adv Giliomee said.
He explained a blackout would imply that the entire Southern Africa would experience load shedding for an extended period.
"To restore electricity after a blackout would not be as easy as flicking a switch; it could take anything between four days and fourteen days, leaving the country with no access to traditionally sourced electricity during that time."
In the case of a blackout, Eskom would have to undertake a procedure known as a blackout start to stabilise the national power system and restore electricity supply to the country. The risk, however, is not limited to a national blackout but may extend to a provincial or even local blackout."
Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan this week said Eskom and government did not plan to extend load shedding beyond Stage 4, however, indications are that planning has started for Stage 5 and Stage 6, which will result in the shedding of 5 000 MW and 6 000 MW respectively. Eskom schedules on their website makes provision for load shedding up to Stage 8.
According to Fin24, officials have warned there is a race against time to ensure that a national blackout and grid collapse do not happen. Addressing the media on Tuesday, Minister Gordhan did not give a deadline of when the load-shedding may stop. He did, however, say a team of technicians would provide answers after a 10-day investigation.
Briefed mayoral committee
Advocate Giliomee said the administration briefed the mayoral committee on Tuesday about the risks involved in prolonged load shedding or even blackouts. Four probable risks were identified and, with these in mind the existing, council-approved municipal contingency plan is being reassessed.
Impeded communications between the municipality and residents is a real risk.
Adv Giliomee said: "When the electricity supply is cut nationally for more than 48 hours, traditional methods of communication will be at risk.
"Cellular phone networks have invested in generators and back-up batteries to maintain communication during load-shedding, but inclement weather this past weekend resulted in a number of MTN cellphone transmission tower failures.
"Cellular network connectivity may be disrupted if load shedding continues or worsens, with the result that security measures activated through cellular phones, such as access gates can become compromised.
"Vandalism and theft of equipment at cellular towers exacerbate this problem."
Cellular phone connectivity may become compromised. Prolonged power failures may result in access to the internet being cut. Even radio station transmissions may fail.
Several alternative communication methods are being investigated, such as the use of loud hailers, the posting of notices at predetermined strategic points, and the use of ward committee members to relay important information to the community.
Access to a battery operated radio may therefore be an advantage.
Availability of fuel
Fuel suppliers will likely not be able to sustainably provide or distribute fuel to either the municipality or ordinary residents. The municipality has already invested in additional own diesel storage capacity and heads of departments were instructed to identify critically important vehicles that would require fuel. Nationally, diesel may become in short supply.
In the event of an emergency, all other municipal vehicles will be recalled and parked, providing additional storage capacity.
Negotiations are ongoing with fuel suppliers to ensure that they will have the means to deliver fuel on demand.
The municipality has 42 generators of which 16 are permanently installed at strategically important service areas that would require fuel and these would be supplied through the municipality's own means.
Residents are urged to keep their vehicles fuelled up at all times and their vehicles in good working order.
The municipality's planning is with the intention to not disrupt the supply of potable water to households from any of the 50 reservoirs serving the greater Mossel Bay area, however, the challenge lies in keeping the reservoirs filled to capacity.
If necessary, water can be delivered to predetermined water collection points by using the existing water trucks.
"Residents are advised to store a supply of water in airtight containers," Adv Giliomee said.
Water has to be pumped from Klein Brak River to Langeberg, from where it gravitates towards the De Bakke area. All other areas will have to be supplied with water through tankers.
Sewerage and sanitation
The municipal waste water treatment works handles raw wastewater inflows of around 12 Megalitres per day and are equipped with generators that could run between 18 and 20 hours before refuelling. However, there are 88 sewer pump stations throughout the municipal area and spillages can be expected at many of smaller pump stations without back-up generators.
Safety and security
The contingency plan provides for the establishment of a joint operations center from where all operations will be coordinated under the guidance of the chief of Mossel Bay Fire and Disaster Management. This will be an interdisciplinary operation including the law enforcement services and the community police forums.
In addition, talks have commenced with representatives of the municipal labour unions.
"Municipal personnel will still be required to report for duty, but in the changed circumstance it may be necessary to deploy them outside the scope of their job descriptions."
Residents are advised to join their neighbourhood watch groups, to ensure that their home security systems are fully functional, and to especially check the batteries of alarm systems and access control systems.
In due course the municipality will issue more comprehensive press releases as and when necessary to keep the community abreast of developments.
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