How many of you have a box of emergency supplies stowed away somewhere, possibly now well out of date? Would it make better sense to just try and keep some extra stock of canned and dried foods in the kitchen cupboards? Throughout September, Scott Dray of Wellington Region Emergency Management Office (WREMO) talked to Greener Neighbourhood groups and their wider communities, and at times his advice turned some old ideas about Civil Defence preparedness on its head.
When disaster strikes, a common assumption is that Civil Defence will be there immediately to provide food, water, support and instruction. That's their job. However Scott pointed out the sober reality, that this is not actually likely to happen. If a major earthquake hits the Wellington region, the majority of resources and support will to go to Wellington City, meaning Kāpiti communities may go without support for some time and we will need to get things sorted for ourselves.
Scott began by asking groups about their ‘hazardscape’ - what natural disasters are we at risk from? In Kāpiti, earthquakes and subsequent tsunamis are the biggest hazard to plan for. There are also floods and tornadoes, and with climate change such extreme weather events are likely to happen more often.
Many Kāpiti residents live in a tsunami zone. Scott explained that tsunami sirens are no longer used. If an offshore earthquakes occurs, there will be time for Civil Defence to assess risk and provide a warning through avenues such as the WREMO facebook page and the Red Cross hazards app. However if a quake occurs in our own waters, there would be no time for a Civil Defence announcement, so if an earthquake goes on longer than a minute, or you can’t stand up in it, then you need to activate your action plan. This should involve going further inland to to higher ground, having an agreement about where you will meet your family/whanau and knowing your school/kura evacuation plan.
For those who work in the city, getting back to Kāpiti may involve a 50+km walk home. To raise awareness and better understand this reality the Lions Club have organised The Long Walk Home - a walk from Wellington Railway station to Raumati Beach taking place over two days on November 5th and 6th.
New recommendations are that people should be prepared to go for seven days without support. In the face of a disaster it is our local community, our neighbours and whanau who can provide the best support for each other. Having water, a gas cooker or barbeque, a radio, first aid experience and someone who knows how to make an emergency loo are some of the essentials. Knowing what resources and vulnerabilities exist within your neighbourhoods and local whanau networks is key to thriving.
Scott says the best way to prepare is simply to get to know your neighbours. Being part of a Greener Neighbourhoods group is a huge advantage. People sharing their skills is essential - Scott showed a great video to help inspire what communities can do together. The Pounamu Ōtaki Greener Neighbourhood group drew attention to their whanau networks and the support that local marae provide in times of emergency and disaster. The Ōtaki Community Response plan notes that one of their weakness is that marae and churches are not currently linked up with Civil Defence. So it is timely that many of the Kāpiti Community Response plans are soon to be reviewed. All residents are invited to be apart of this process, it is an excellent opportunity for communities to have input to understanding their own particular needs to ensure support and resources go where it's needed.
*Support neighbours rather than expecting aid to be helicoptered in
*Make arrangements with your whanau/family about meeting places (phones may not be working)
*Be prepared for seven days without support - food, water, gas bottles, toilet...
*If an earthquake lasts more than a minute, or you can’t stand up in it, assume there will be a tsunami and move to higher ground if needed. There won’t be sirens.