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Community Emergency Hubs in the Wellington Region

Earlier this month, the Wellington Region Emergency Management Office (WREMO) launched a campaign to urge people in the Wellington Region to be more prepared for an emergency by finding their local Community Emergency Hub at GetPrepared.nz/hubs.

In the event of a disaster, such as a major earthquake, there may be widespread damage to important infrastructure. Once residents have checked on their household and neighbours, their local Community Emergency Hub is a place where they can go to ask for and offer assistance, find out information about what’s happening in their suburb or be in the company of others facing a similar situation.

In response to questions raised and information presented in an article published on Scoop.co.nz on 29 May 19 (Palmer, G. - http://wellington.scoop.co.nz/?p=119114#more-119114), WREMO has provided further information on the initiative:

1. Response to the point about emergency supplies which was raised in the article (cited above):

The idea of Civil Defence Centres (CDCs) – known places in the community where members of the public could go to for stockpiled emergency food, water and supplies - is an outdated concept from the Second World War that has now evolved. Building on the lessons from the Christchurch earthquakes and other emergency events around the world, we know that neighbours and community members will usually be the first responders after a large-scale event as emergency services will be stretched. We also know that communities already have most of the resources that CDCs were attempting to stockpile (food, water, blankets, first aid kits and other equipment, such as torches.).
Maintaining large quantities of supplies to support a community comes at a high cost, both in terms of space, time and financial cost, especially when communities have no idea when they will be used. In reality, the equipment stored in CDCs tended to be little more than a token gesture, as any large-scale event would require communities to source what it needed from within its own resources. WREMO is now making this reality clear to the general public.

In 2017, the Community Emergency Hubs initiative replaced the CDC model in the Wellington Region to address the challenges of the old CDC model.

The Community Emergency Hub initiative is about empowering communities to increase their level of resilience in the face of a disaster. Rather than create and maintain large stores of supplies at a central location, WREMO works with communities to make them aware of the wide range of resources that are available in their local area. WREMO’s local Emergency Management Advisors also run training events at Community Emergency Hubs to help communities practise how to organise a community-led emergency response and share their community resources amongst themselves.

Each Community Emergency Hub has an identical start-up kit which is checked and refreshed annually. Each kit contains items to help communities start organising a response, including a Hub Guide which identifies the types of roles needed for the community to self-organise effectively, a list of supplies and resources that are available in the local area, administrative materials and an VHF radio to communicate with the wider official response if phone lines are not working. These kits are designed to be portable in the event that the Community Emergency Hub needs to move to a different facility.

2. Response to the point about access to a key for the Community Emergency Hubs in the article (cited above):

The location of each Hub is available online at GetPrepared.nz/hubs. However, not all Hub guides contain facility maps. WREMO is working with facility owners to create these maps for as close to 100% of Hubs as possible before the end of June 2019.

Following discussion with facility owners, and contrary to what the current guides indicate, the facility maps will not show the location of the Hub lockboxes for security reasons. To ensure access in an emergency is possible, WREMO works with facility owners to identify a minimum of six keyholders for each Hub who live in the surrounding area and understand their role in opening the facility after a major event.

3. Response to the point about it being every man/woman for themselves in the event of a natural disaster in the article (cited above):

WREMO actively encourages individuals, households and communities to take simple actions to make themselves better prepared in the event of a disaster. WREMO’s Earthquake Planning Guide (www.getprepared.nz/earthquakeguide) outlines the things people can do to make themselves, their families and their community better prepared to get through the challenging days that will exist in the immediate aftermath of a major event.

Although some may find the prospect of stretched emergency services somewhat daunting - only having the ability to deal with the most serious and urgent cases - it is important for individuals to realise that they are not alone in an emergency. By working with other family members, neighbours and their wider community, not only is it possible for communities to get through such event but to respond and recover quickly and well. This is what WREMO is working to achieve.

© Scoop Media

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