iLembe Disaster Management Centre will serve as a Work Area Recovery site

A centre with great potential for housing key municipal services in the event of disaster has been identified to ensure a coordinated approach to business continuity in the iLembe District Municipality writes Zama Soji, Key Expert for Vuthela’s Public Finance Management (PFM) Component.

The devastating impact of business interruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, civil unrest in July 2021 and the April 2022 floods in the iLembe District Municipality has caused business continuity to be prioritised under the Vuthela audit and risk management project.

Having developed the business continuity strategies for all municipalities within the iLembe district, the question of how and where the municipalities should assemble to continue with their business had to be addressed.

During the execution of the project, the District Enterprise Risk Management Forum identified an iLembe District Disaster Management Centre (DMC) for consideration as a work area recovery (WAR) site.

This would allow those already identified as key/ critical resources, especially from a crisis management aspect, to be able to follow a coordinated approach to any disaster effecting the district. The DMC could also serve as a central point in order to assess any potential risks or vulnerability to communities, mitigating disaster severity, ensuring emergency preparedness, promoting rapid and effective response, ensuring the provision of relief, and implementing necessary actions in line with applicable legislation.

While the DMC is situated in a floodplain site, the manager in charge informed the team that necessary precautions were taken into consideration when erecting the building to mitigate against the risk of flooding. It is important that this risk is evaluated again to confirm that the building will be accessible in the event that flooding occurs.

The centre has great potential for housing municipalities in the event of disaster. However, critical issues of health and safety; accessibility; alternative electricity generation and verification of wireless connectivity capacity; as well as a failover solution as a backup, must be considered.

The DMC manager has also indicated that plans are in place to upgrade the centre and make the DMC a recovery site. However, due to limited financial resources, the iLembe District Municipality will have to consider external funding sources to upgrade the centre to enable municipalities to function and continue with their critical activities in the event of crises.

Clear road map

There is a need to develop a clear road map with an in-depth feasibility study involving all the key stakeholders and interested parties, in which the following would need to be considered:

 

  • Formalise the agreed purpose of the DMC and align with district-wide strategies;
  • Review ICT capability at the DMC, more especially in terms of capacity and internet security;
  • Consider ICT access to all local municipality servers and requirements and see if cloud hosting is not a better and more cost-effective option;
  • Civil engineering to review drainage capabilities, more especially around the access point and existing carpark, together with the adjacent municipal buildings;
  • Installation of an external fire escape staircase, and ensure that all health and safety protocols and requirements are considered;
  • Review the current back-up generating capacity supporting the DMC and that it is sufficient, that the generator is in a working standby condition, with service plan and fuel supply reserves;
  • Consider alternative power generation using solar, battery storage and an inverter;
  • Review seating capacity, more especially if one or more municipalities are facing a crisis;
  • Consider creating a work area on the ground floor open area, thus increasing the seating capacity and to cater for any staffing disabilities;
  • Upgrade the carpark area and improve the security of the site; and
  • Prepare business plans to apply for external funding towards the upgrading of the DMC in order to create a state-of-the-art Disaster Management and Work Area Recovery Centre.