OPINION | Civil Preparedness

Lake Wanaka. Photo: Nikki Heath / Wanaka Sun

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the LINK Community Growth Forum for the Upper Clutha. This was a very well-run, well-planned event.

Congratulations to those involved in organising it and bringing everyone together, particularly Kathy Dedo. I came away with a long list of notes for some “work-ons” for the Upper Clutha.

Earlier that same day, I received a briefing on our Civil Defence preparedness in the region. It’s commonly known that the greatest threat facing our region is what is referred to as “AF8” – being the possibility of a significant earthquake centred on the Alpine Fault line.

I’ve asked those leading our Civil Defence initiatives to be what I termed as “race ready”. I have some experience in this space having been chief executive of Christchurch Airport when the earthquakes struck in 2010/2011. I therefore know that there are no opportunities to second-guess and roleplay after an event has occurred.

The smart move is to be ready beforehand. Christchurch Airport had previously prepared for disasters very carefully, including running full-on mock disasters and implementing the learnings from these scenarios. That left the airport in good shape when the February 2011 earthquake struck.

While I sincerely hope such an event doesn’t occur, we would be fooling ourselves if we ignored the issue. Working with our Civil Defence team, QLDC will endeavour to be as prepared as we possibly can to support the whole community.

However, we all need to take responsibility and individually households should also make sure they are prepared for an emergency. Having a well-stocked plastic bin loaded with food items, water, spare batteries, a transistor radio and a first aid kit would be a good place to start.

Experience has also taught me that cell phones are more or less useless in a disaster. Intense usage floods the telecommunications networks and makes it impossible to make a call and when batteries go flat without a mains power supply there’s usually no way of charging them.

A smart tip is to charge it from your car if you’re able to. So it’s essential you agree a plan amongst your family and whanau to define meeting places and emergency contacts as you may not be together when disaster strikes.

I’d recommend reading some of the Civil Defence and Emergency Management resources on the QLDC website (www.qldc.govt.nz).

Coming back to the Community LINK event, afterwards I drove home over the Crown Range. Bear in mind that this was Thursday night last week. In the car I was ruminating on the Civil Defence briefing and the thought went through my mind of the effect on travellers over the Crown Range, if an earthquake struck and road slips occurred.

I awoke the following morning to the news that indeed a slip had happened, probably not long after I’d traversed the road. A very salient reminder that we live in a challenging country and we need to be well prepared.

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