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Fortifying February Flood Event Report

Fortifying February Flood Event Report

A review of the February floods identifies a range of issues that Civil Defence needs to work on, says Shelley Dew Hopkins, President of Manawatu/Rangitikei Federated Farmers.

The Minister of Civil Defence released a review of the February 2004 flood event earlier this week.

“Overall, all those involved in handling the flood event recovery should be complimented – despite the widespread devastation there was no direct loss of life, and the recovery was generally well managed.

“Problems in some areas did not reflect civil defence response as a whole. However, the report has brought up a number of issues, some of which the Federation has asked organisations such as Telecom to address.

“The failure of telecommunications and flood warning devices and systems left rural people incommunicado. We can only hope the telecommunications industry will take up the review’s challenge to expand coverage.

“Using a number of different ways to communicate with the public is crucial, as technology such as cellular reception and internet capacity is limited in rural areas. Recommending the introduction of a dedicated, nation-wide civil defence freephone number and radio station will go some way toward counteracting the communications problems.

“Rather than reinventing the wheel, integrating the Agriquality rural database into a consolidated mapping system showing all homes, infrastructure and geographical features would help coordinate the recovery process. We hope this proposal will be actioned,“ says Ms Dew Hopkins.

The report identifies the need for plans and procedures to ensure full assessment of the impacts of emergency events in all areas, particularly where communication systems have failed or communication is difficult due to isolation. This should always include reconnaissance to check on isolated communities and residences.

“The identified lack of understanding about what to do in an emergency is worrying. It shows a need to educate the public about the roles they can play in a civil defence emergency. The Federation supports the idea of identifying specific groups of people within rural communities to manage responses to any adverse event.

“The report shows many involved in the response had a worrying lack of understanding the practical realities of rural life, which hindered recovery efforts, and this must be addressed immediately,” Ms Dew Hopkins said.

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