Emergency Management Otago is encouraging residents across the region to sign up to Gets Ready, a two-way communication tool which helps people better prepare for emergencies and be more informed, co-ordinated and resilient when they occur.
Gets Ready is a well-established system that was set up in the Selwyn District after the 2010-11 Canterbury earthquakes. It has already been trialled in Central Otago and Queenstown’s Kelvin Heights Peninsula for the past year and is now being rolled out across Otago as part of Emergency Management Otago’s commitment to improving across the '4 Rs' - reduction, readiness, response and recovery.
Project co-ordinator Craig Gibson said that ‘Otago Gets Ready’ aimed to increase community resilience, strengthen neighbourhood networks and build partnerships between emergency services and local communities.
"Emergencies can happen anywhere, anytime, and Gets Ready is a proven two-way tool which will both help get information to people and provide them with an opportunity to help," he said.
Gets Ready will better connect people in their neighbourhoods and help them look after each other by sharing resources, supporting those who are more vulnerable, and linking with Civil Defence to build a clear understanding of what a community needs during emergencies and what resources and skills Emergency Management Otago can draw on in any particular area.
"Rather than mass alerts, the Gets Ready email and text alert system will help us target and send localised information to residents about situations that directly affect them, from small-scale events (boil water notices or fire bans) to major emergencies like earthquakes, floods, fires, severe weather events, and tsunamis/seiches," said Gibson. "The targeting tool is particularly powerful - we can now pinpoint suburbs and streets, right down to the side of a street or a household."
Gets Ready not only keeps residents informed of what’s happening through email and text alerts but also invites them to offer their assistance and be part of a co-ordinated community emergency response.
"Many people like to help out during an emergency and we can tap into their valuable skills and resources if they choose to register them in Gets Ready. They can also register to any needs and vulnerabilities they have.
"All of this valuable intelligence is vital for effective response planning. For example, we will be able to identify first aid-trained people in an area and ask them to check on an elderly neighbour with mobility or health issues and let us know what help is needed. Or link someone up to another community member who speaks their language and can help translate instructions. Or we may call people listed as having 4WD vehicles to help transport people or resources," said Mr Gibson.
Gets Ready also provides a channel for residents to pass on-the-ground intelligence back to the Emergency Operations Centre via their Community Response Groups. This helps Civil Defence co-ordinate a targeted response and get information and help to where it’s most needed, quickly and effectively
The Otago Emergency Management team will be out around the region in the coming months promoting Gets Ready to residents in different ways, from online channels to in-person events such as community association and emergency response group meetings, festivals, and via council, social agency, business and school networks.
Gibson is aiming to register 20,000 Otago residents by the end of 2021 and hopes that once people sign up, they’ll encourage others to do so as well.
The Gets Ready system does not supersede the National Emergency Alerts which are pushed through cell towers, or individual Council alerts, rather it supplements them by providing more detailed, localised information through additional channels.
Read edition 1014 of the Wānaka Sun here.