Cape Town’s earthquake readiness

JP Smith, Mayoral committee member for safety and security

The City of Cape Town notes the widespread public interest in the tremors that were experienced in parts of the metropole over the weekend.

There have subsequently been some questions about Cape Town’s readiness to deal with the impacts of an earthquake, and whose responsibility it is to co-ordinate such a response.

There are numerous aspects to consider – first of which is what qualifies as a major earthquake.

According to the Council for Geoscience (CGS), the difference between an earthquake and an earth tremor lies in the magnitude of the event. Within the South African context, a seismic event with a magnitude lower than 4.0 is considered a tremor.

Although earthquakes cannot be predicted and we do not have early warning systems for them, the CGS does have tsunami sensors and early warning systems to ensure the public is notified of any impending tsunami threats. In the event of a major earthquake, the Council for Geoscience and South African Weather Service will be the lead agencies.

The City’s Disaster Co-ordinating Team will co-ordinate responses to the potential impacts, involving both internal and external agencies including the SAPS, SANDF, EMS Urban Search and Rescue, SPCA etc. The City’s Disaster Risk Management Centre has emergency response plans for a range of potential disasters, including earthquakes – these plans are reviewed annually and disaster readiness exercises with all relevant role players are held to test systems on an ongoing basis. As with any potential disaster, an effective response relies on the involvement of all concerned, including the public. Information on what residents can do in the event of an earthquake, is available on the City of Cape Town’s website.

The public is further reminded that the City’s Public Emergency Communication Centre (PECC) should be their primary contact point in the event of an emergency. We urge residents to save the number on their cellphone: 021 480 7700. The PECC is also contactable from a landline, by dialling 107.