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A Collectively Shock-Ready City

Cape Town’s Disaster Risk Management

continues to prepare for, respond to & recover from disasters


In order to encourage the city’s greater resilience to shocks and stresses, the Cape Town Disaster Risk Management (DRM) Centre was formed. This entity coordinates efforts to prevent disasters and lessen the impact of hazards that cannot be avoided. The DRM Plan facilitates multi-agency and multi-jurisdictional co-ordination in both pro-active and re-active programmes. This helps to create accountabilities for all departments in the City of Cape Town to compile pro-active DRM programmes that support disaster risk reduction or elimination, as well as disaster preparedness.

Addressing Cape Town’s vulnerabilities requires a wide-reaching preparedness of Capetonians for any number of eventualities. Similarly, where systemic vulnerabilities present themselves, the DRM Plan must do everything possible to improve those systems. The efforts to build this resilience are most closely relevant to actions relating to rehabilitation, reconstruction, mitigation and preparedness.

Shock Ready Cape Town

Future-Proof Urban Systems


While many of the shocks that confront Cape Town are known and are experienced regularly, such as localised flooding, fire and power outages, there are many potential shocks on the horizon for which Capetonians have little experience. The City of Cape Town’s disaster management plans and responses thus need to be aware of and prepared for future shock events like a cyberattack or a heatwave. Equally, the whole of society needs to be prepared for such shocks, particularly because of the possible large-scale impact of them. Goals include:

• Developing and implementing a comprehensive city-wide heat plan to decrease the impact of heat waves when they occur. This needs to be understood and owned by individuals, households, communities and businesses, allowing for the city and its economy to thrive under the circumstances, and for human life to be protected.

• Developing city-wide collaboration to reduce the risks of cyberattacks and secure systems across government, utilities, SOEs, business and households. This ensures the response capabilities and even prevention of cyberattacks on a city-wide scale.

• Preparing for the procurement of utility scale renewable energy from Independent Power Producers (IPPs) with a clear and realistic understanding of the financing, procurement and legal implications involved.

• Developing a portfolio of flood prevention capital projects to reduce the acute risk of flooding across Cape Town in the next iteration of the City’s sector plans. This can then be considered for implementation over the next decade.

• Implementing innovative solutions to reduce the devastation of fire in informal settlements with a multifaceted range of interventions to improve detection, prevention and recovery from fires.

• Developing ‘build back better’ protocols for infrastructure damaged in shock events. This facilitates transversal commitments across City departments and other spheres of government that build infrastructure and homes in Cape Town to support the recovery of vulnerable people.

• Roll out simulations to prepare for shock events to ensure increased awareness of and preparation for a wide range of scenarios by a broad range of Capetonians. This will result in improved business continuity and recovery plans.

Strengthen Individual, Family & Community Resilience


The capabilities of people to survive, adapt and thrive in the face of shock events is critically important. Pulling together in times of shock is vitally important for the resilience of a city. Capetonians did extraordinary things during the recent Cape Town drought in coming together to defeat Day Zero, however we cannot be sure how we would have responded if the worst-case scenario had arrived. We need to be shock-ready at multiple scales, with the ability to be cohesive across those divisions that cause us to be divided in daily life. Shock events do not make decisions, but people certainly can and do.

The decisions people make during shock events depends on their capabilities and the resources available to them. It is understood worldwide that people’s vulnerability to risks depends to a large extent on the assets they have available, including physical, financial, human and social assets. Building individual, family and community resilience requires enhancing these assets. In Cape Town, we need to place a strong emphasis on supporting the resilience-building capabilities of those people who are most vulnerable, for example:

• Developing and deploying the Neighbourhood Resilience Assessment for greater awareness at a local level of shocks and vulnerabilities. This encourages more prepared communities and the production of standardised data which will assist vulnerable groups to have a greater voice in Cape Town’s resilience planning.

• Expanding the Women and Girl’s Resilience Programme for the empowerment of women and girls, particularly those living in vulnerable communities, with knowledge and skills that are important for surviving, adapting to, and thriving in the context of shock events.

• Deploying smart technology and predictive analytics to inform pre- and post- disaster planning. This creates a better early warning system for shock events and better information on response measures following shock events.

• Launching the ‘Be a Buddy’ programme for increased social networks, volunteerism and active citizenry to ensure that Capetonians pull together in times of shock specially to support the most vulnerable residents.

Encourage Responsible Investment in Household & Business Resilience


Some shock events, like drought and power outages, result in a scarcity of resources like water and electricity. It is not uncommon during and after such events, for households and businesses to invest in alternative methods to secure these resources. For example, during recent periods of load shedding, many households and businesses invested in diesel generators and solar-power systems.

Investments into alternative resource provision for households and businesses that can afford to do so help them to withstand and even thrive during times of shock. Viewed together, the agglomeration of these investments creates redundancies for the whole system as well. For this reason, there is a need to encourage responsible investment in household and business resilience, in a way that achieves multiple benefits, including redundancies, safety and sustainability. For example:

• Launching a Borehole Data Capture and Owner Awareness Project for the responsible use of boreholes and well-points by private owners. This will ensure the protection and sustainability of groundwater by using innovate data and awareness campaigns. Collective action during times of shock by leveraging individual resources for the public good is also ensured.

• Launching a Property Assessed Clean Energy Programme for increased ability of households and businesses to build energy security. This improves Capetonians resilience to load shedding and the City’s contribution to mitigating GHG emissions.

Explore Expanded Options for Accessing Funding Mechanisms for Shock Events


The recent drought has shone a light on how vulnerable Cape Town can be during natural disasters and shock events from the point of view of funding emergency and tactical responses. Shock events pose a risk to the whole of South Africa, and hence there are competing needs across the country, meaning funding relief from other spheres of government cannot be relied upon. Yet the issue of funding for city-wide and catastrophic shock events cannot remain unaddressed. The multitude of possible weather-related shocks due to climate change pose a real risk to Cape Town, but so do unforeseen shocks which increase in probability as the world becomes more connected, thus the DRM Centre must continue:

• Lobbying national government for budget flexibility to increase the ability of the City of Cape Town to protect human life and improve adaptive responses.

• Exploring innovative insurance products for catastrophic shock events to reach an understanding of the efficacy, viability and practicality of such investments.

Contact us today if you’d like to discuss the City of Cape Town’s Resilience Strategy or specifically the tools in place for the Mother City’s increased collective shock readiness.

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A Collectively Shock-Ready City

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