Alarmingly slow response

Thembela Khamango

Thembela Khamango

Business came to a standstill at Jabulani Mall, Soweto, yesterday during an exercise to check if the centre was ready to deal with emergency situations.

But the exercise, which was jointly conducted by the police, paramedics and metro police, turned out to be a damp squib because it failed to produce the desired results.

The exercise failed to catch workers and shoppers by surprise because it did not look real, causing staff to react casually to the disaster alarm.

The staff was apparently told about the drill.

Centre manager David Pooe said the purpose of the exercise was to see if the centre management and the shop owners were ready for fire or bomb threats.

"We informed shop owners, but not the workers what is going to happen. We are going to evacuate people like in a real situation," said Pooe before the exercise.

To Pooe's surprise when the time came workers were strolling out of the building as if nothing was happening and others were reluctant to close their shops.

"It is an exercise to teach us how to react when there is fire in the building," said Puseletso Chabedi, one of the workers who strolled out of the building.

But another worker was overheard saying: "They are crazy. We are losing money as they evacuate people out of the building for nothing."

Disaster management official Nomsa Khumalo said it took more than an hour for the people to evacuate the building.

"In a real situation the building should be vacated within six to 10 minutes, otherwise people die," said Khumalo.