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Professor Lee Miles has contributed significantly to the development of new procedures for local authorities in Sierra Leone to manage emergencies and disasters at large landfills and waste collection sites in the capital Freetown.

Bags of garbage at a landfill site in Freetown, Sierra Leone, with smoke rising from piles of garbage in the backgroundSmoking landfill site in Freetown
“Fires are one of the most urgent and emerging threats to the population of Freetown, which has a population of over one million,” explained Professor Miles of the university’s Disaster Management Centre. “Regular and uncontrolled fires are wreaking havoc across the city. They pose a constant threat to local communities, where some of the city’s poorest people live and work. Last year alone there were well over forty major fires in the city,” he added.

Passers-by next to a large landfill site in Freetown, Sierra Leone, with smoke rising from the site
With the onset of the impacts of climate change, Freetown’s emergency services are under constant pressure, testing the city’s ability to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs). In particular, the vulnerability of the two large landfills (Kingtom and Kissy), located in the center of the capital, to urban fires, was specifically identified as a major concern. Fires started by chemicals, biologicals or waste could spread quickly through the city from these sites and pose a real danger.

The new Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) were officially launched at a major event on July 28, involving police, firefighters, non-governmental organizations and key municipal staff employed at landfills and waste transfer stations working in all the city. They aim to strengthen the resilience of the city’s waste management and sanitation, particularly with regard to the management of emergencies and disasters affecting the city’s huge landfills.

The SOP builds on the findings and recommendations of the Driving African Capacity Building in Disaster Management (AFRICAB) project led by Professor Miles. The project was funded by the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund and partnered with the University’s Disaster Management Centre, Freetown City Council and the National Disaster Management Agency of Sierra Leone.

“There are specific sections in the SOP that highlight the major hazards and single points of failure that waste and disaster managers need to address,” said Prof Miles.

Local authority staff and first responders sitting at a table discussing disaster management proceduresLocal authority staff and first responders discussing new disaster management procedures
The SOP is part of Freetown City Council’s plans to significantly improve the management and safety of waste collection and disposal throughout the city. The launch of the SOP took place alongside two days of hands-on firefighting training for workers at all landfills and transfer stations.

“These procedures will help local authorities in Freetown build their capacity to protect their staff as well as citizens from the risk of serious fires and respond quickly when they do occur,” said Professor Miles. “They will help build the resilience of the city and reduce the impact on the livelihoods of residents as well as air pollution on the environment,” he concluded.

James M. Sesay, Supervising Director of Freetown Landfills and Transfer Stations commented:

“Professor Miles’ expertise, together with the results of the AFRICAB project completed in 2021, provided a major contribution to the development of the new standard operating procedures to be launched by the Freetown City Council in 2022. Understanding the main hazards and unique points of failure that can challenge the effectiveness of emergency and disaster management at city dumps and integrating this understanding into our new procedures is a big step forward. staff and stakeholders to keep landfills and transfer stations safe and secure as best they can in these difficult times of climate change.