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Biggest-ever exercise will pay safety dividends

Biggest-ever exercise will pay safety dividends

New Zealand’s ability to cope in a real emergency will be improved as a result of the country’s largest-ever civil defence exercise, Civil Defence Minister Rick Barker said today.

Exercise Capital Quake was designed to test a ‘whole of nation’ response to a 7.6 magnitude earthquake centred on Wellington. The exercise ended on Wednesday evening, after running for 36 hours and testing response systems at local, regional, national and international level.

“In the scenario, hundreds of people died, tens of thousands were displaced and homes, commercial property and infrastructure throughout Wellington, the Hutt Valley and across central New Zealand were destroyed by fire and quake damage,” said Rick Barker.

“The point of the exercise is to absorb the lessons learned so we can respond quickly and appropriately to save lives and reduce damage in a real emergency.”

The exercise was the biggest civil defence exercise ever held in New Zealand, with around 50 core agencies and around a thousand personnel fully engaged and thousands more being involved over the 36-hour period. The United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) took part in the exercise, and several overseas countries offered assistance.

“The sheer size and uniqueness of the exercise means it will take time to collate and then analyse the results, before recommendations are made and changes implemented,” said Mr Barker.

“I have been very impressed by the enthusiasm of the more than 1,000 participants and their eagerness to learn from the experience and translate those lessons into work practices.

“Capital Quake needs to be seen as another step in the Government’s planned strategy to improve our civil defence arrangements.

“We have introduced a new Act, a nationwide Strategy, and a nationwide Plan. We have made a significant investment in Ministry staffing levels and funded major public education campaigns.

“With Capital Quake, we have started the process of developing, testing and refining arrangements for a ‘national’ response to emergencies. The second planned ‘whole of nation’ exercise, for Auckland next year, will take us even further, said Rick Barker.”

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