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Farm watch kills three birds with one stone

The Drakenstein Farm Watch has proven itself to be one of the most effective community response organisations in the Cape Winelands District.

Daan van Leeuwen Boomkamp, founder and chairperson, moved to South Africa from Utrecht, a province in the Netherlands, in 2003 to rebuild a hotel and started the DFW by accident.

He recently spoke to Paarl Post about the role of the farm watch and why it is efficient.

Daan said the DFW reacts to an average of two incidents per week. “That can be anything from a car accident to a car in a ditch,” he said.

He explains that the DFW consists of three facets; firefighting, armed response and medical assistance.

“When there is an accident, you need to be able to complete these three tasks. If an accident occurs for example, responders must be able to assist with firefighting if the car is burning, police the area to prevent looters and control traffic, and medically assist the injured.

“Thus we train our members in all three of these fields.”

Daan said most of the non-profit company’s members have military, police or medical experience.

He also believes an effective communications system is crucial for the watch to be successful.

“We have a radio control centre . . . with three operators, who receive salaries,” he said. According to Daan the radio is networked to about 1 200 people. For the greater community, a WhatsApp group is available.

Daan said he identified the need for such an organisation in 2011 and unintentionally founded the DFW with five members.

“We had many community problems with fires and we had nasty robberies as well,” he said.

He said the authorities had too many challenges to deal with the rising crime rate and more, and thus they decided to lend support. And now the company has expanded tremendously and the DFW is the first farm watch in the Western Cape to be accredited by the provincial government.

“When we started to grow we approached the provincial government for advice as to the road ahead. We have their full support in what we do,” he explained.

Daan also says that the farm watch has extensive authority to take charge if they respond to a scene.

“If I respond to a scene first, I’ll take command. If I go out to a fire in the mountains, the first thing I’ll do is fight the fire, it’s logic,” he said.

Daan said the DFW’s average response time for a medical emergency is 12 minutes but he said their biggest challenge is fire. “Most of our investments are in fire equipment,” he explains, as firefighting equipment can get lost or damaged in a fire.

He also says that armed response gear is expensive as one bulletproof vest with a walkie-talkie, handcuffs, pepper spray and an identification badge can cost up to R30 000.

The DFW relies solely on donations from the community and business sponsors to operate.

“The farm watch has over recent years invested in hardware, communication structures, radio networks and personal equipment for medical, fire and armed response, as well as in six 700 litre bakkie units, a 5 500 litre tanker truck and a four by four fire truck. A dedicated drone search and rescue team and more is in the pipeline,” he said.

To get involved, community members can contact the DFW via its website https://drakensteinfarmwatch.wordpress.com or visit its Facebook page. The DFW’s 24-hour per day emergency number is 0860 666 662.

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