The US embassy in South Africa has issued an alert to all American citizens living in or travelling to South Africa to prepare for potential emergencies by gathering enough non-perishable food, 3 litres of drinking water per day, medicine, and first aid supplies that will last for three days.
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The security alert by the US government was announced on 15 February 2023, six days after President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster on energy in South Africa.
The statement by the embassy read: “The U.S. Embassy would like to take this opportunity to remind U.S. citizens traveling to or living in South Africa that South Africa has a Travel Advisory Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution due to Crime and Civil Unrest.”
“The government of South Africa has declared a “State of Disaster” in response to ongoing power shortages. The country’s energy crisis includes sustained load-shedding (controlled rolling blackouts), at varying intervals and is expected to extend beyond 2023.”
In the statement, there is mention of the negative impact that loadshedding has on daily life in South Africa:
“Load-shedding currently results in localized power outages of up to six hours or more per day throughout the country. These planned electricity outages negatively affect private residences, businesses, municipal lighting, traffic lights, and hotels. Rolling blackouts can also impact water availability and safety, internet connectivity, cell phone network coverage, fuel pumps (and therefore fuel availability), residential security features, and the food supply.”
The United States also alerted its citizens to the increase in crime during loadshedding:
“Additionally, power outages have the potential to increase crime; for example, traffic jams when lights are out provide opportunities for smash and grab crime, and residences can be targeted when lights are out and security systems are not functioning. Further, ongoing conditions have led to an increase in protests and demonstrations, and in some cases civil unrest, throughout the country.”
The US embassy provided additional information and cautioned its citizens to prepare in advance for power outages, including contingencies for communication and water by releasing the following actions and tips:
Actions to take:
- Be aware of your surroundings
- Review your personal security plans
- Inquire about a back-up power supply for your place of lodging (i.e. generators or solar-power)
- Avoid demonstrations
- Exercise caution if unexpectedly in the vicinity of large gatherings or protests
- Monitor local media for updates.
Emergency preparedness tips:
- Have a communications plan for when there is no or limited power (land line locations, external cell phone battery, additional charging cords, hard copy of important numbers, etc.)
- Ensure you have necessary medicine, personal hygiene supplies, eyeglasses
- Memorize family members’ phone numbers
- Identify safe areas around the city, these could include hotels, hospitals, churches, or police stations that may not lose power
- Maintain 72-hours’ worth of supplies at home by stockpiling non-perishable food, 3 liters of drinking water per person per day, and medicines and first aid supplies
- Store flashlights, batteries, radio, and basic tools in a safe location where all family members have easy access.
The US embassy issued its guidance in response to the American government’s recommendation for businesses and financial institutions operating in South Africa to prepare for a potential total grid collapse.
Even though it is unlikely that there will be a blackout, the expert said that the risk has grown because Eskom’s coal fleet is not reliable. Even though the chance of a total blackout is low, it would be smart to take precautions.