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Prepare For Disasters Now

16 May 2005


Businesses, families, schools and organisations of every kind need to have plans in place for emergencies that could leave them without food, power, water or help for days at a time. However, research indicates that few people have made adequate plans.

"As the current agricultural situation has proven, we never know where an unexpected threat may come from or when a potential disaster is going to happen," says Manukau Civil Defence controller Colin Dale. "I have no doubt that few people in coastal Thailand would ever have expected a tsunami to hit last Christmas, but it did.

"If a big enough disaster hits Manukau, it is likely that there will be no cavalry rushing to the rescue immediately. People must expect to have to fend for themselves for a substantial time after events such as a flood or volcano eruption. Power and water supplies may be cut and transport routes affected.

"As to what may cause an emergency, anything is possible and it is foolish to be complacent. We must all be prepared for the serious and even life threatening consequences from a wide variety of events. In the Auckland region we could face a volcanic eruption either close by or in the central North Island, which could result in ash reaching us. Ash is highly dangerous and destructive."

Other threats include:

-aircraft crashes
-power failure
-hazardous substances released into the atmosphere
-criminal acts such as terrorism
-marine collisions
-dam failure
-tornadoes and earthquakes
-infrastructure failure

A comprehensive civil defence emergency management plan (CDEM) for Manukau has just been completed. Colin Dale will be in charge of operations in an emergency as he has the role of Local Controller. He is also chief executive of Manukau City Council.

He says the Council has in place full plans to continue its operations in an emergency situation, termed a Business Continuity Plan.

"It is essential that every business do the same. Managers must ask themselves, "what would happen if our staff could not get to work for days at a time? What we do if there was no power for a long period? How would a serious flood affect our business?"

Families should also prepare by storing food and other essentials in the house. Details on what they should have ready are available on the inside back cover of the Yellow Pages.

It is recommended that this includes three days supply of food and bottled water, toilet paper and essentials such a battery-powered radio and candles in case of power failure. Adequate water is essential as it is needed for drinking and washing, and around three litres per person per day is required.


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