The 4 Rs + a fifth one.
By Len Salt.
Civil Defence professionals like to speak of the four Rs when they formulate their work to protect people, property and the environment in an emergency, and it’s helpful for everyone to understand what these are, so we can all better manage emergencies. Reduction: this means identifying and analysing risks to life and property from hazards and taking steps to either eliminate these risks if possible or reducing their impact and the likelihood of their occurring. We can’t stop a storm from coming, but if maybe, there’s a dead tree near your house, you should remove it so it doesn’t fall and damage your home next time the wind picks up.
Readiness and Response: This is what you do immediately before, during and after a civil defence emergency to save lives and protect property, and to help communities recover. Here in the Coromandel, one of the things we did once we were pretty certain Cyclone Gabrielle was going to deliver us a direct blow was to declare a local state of emergency so that we could get additional resources in to help, like the army. We calculated likely spots where flooding could occur and recommended people in those areas get to a safe place if they were on low-lying ground or had been flooded before. We also advised people to be in a secure place by the time the cyclone hit, so there was little traffic on the roads when slips were happening, and trees were toppling. I feel very strongly that this saved lives. Immediately before, during and after Gabrielle we worked with iwi, the Waikato regional Civil Defence Group, Waikato Regional Council, GNS Science, the military, Fire and Emergency New Zealand, Police, Power Co and other central government partners and agencies to have people, equipment and supplies in place. When the storm cleared, we all worked as a team to connect with isolated communities and to understand the risks of further landslips. Our Council’s roading team and contractors and those of Waka Kotahi/NZTA worked tirelessly to clear slips and repair roads.
Part of our longer-term readiness posture has been working with communities to set up Community Response Groups that with the assistance of our Council’s Emergency Management Unit have come up with emergency plans for their areas. All 29 of them are on our website at www.tcdc.govt.nz/community-response-plans. Recovery: This is the coordinated efforts and processes to bring about the immediate, medium-term and long-term regeneration of the community following an emergency. This is the phase we’re in now. Our Mayoral Disaster Relief Fund has distributed $424,500 to 198 applicants – individuals, families, community organisations, small businesses and marae. We’ve allocated $3.8 million in central government Business Recovery Grants to nearly 400 applicants. We’ve made reopening the Tapu-Coroglen Road our Council’s roading priority and we expect to have a temporary fix in place in June, with permanent repairs made by the end of the year. We’re in close contact with the Cyclone Recovery Minister for the Coromandel – Transport Minister Michael Wood – and we’ve made it clear that until SH25A (Kōpū-Hikuai Road) is reopened, our business community will continue to need central government support. We’ve also been clear about the need for rebuilt roads to be more resilient to the more extreme weather events climate change is causing. The fifth R -Resilience: we have all been using this word - the capacity to withstand or recover quickly from difficulties. The decisions we make now about our recovery must be based on facts and evidence, not wishful thinking, so that we make sound investments we won’t regret. In this way, we can build resilience into not just our roading network and other infrastructure, but into our communities and our economy. Right of reply to opinion piece that ran last week in The Informer re the Whispir platform.
Our Council is testing this. It can be used to send SMS text messages, emails or landline phone calls. Some points of clarification: Whispir is the same platform used by the National Emergency Mobile Alerts on mobile phone devices. When our Council triggered one on 12 February this year ahead of Cyclone Gabrielle, it reached 96 per cent of Spark and 100 per cent of Vodafone mobile phone users in the target area – our district. Our Council will roll out emergency alerts for the Coromandel using Whispir when we are 100 per cent satisfied it is ready and will perform as the community wants. We are satisfied Whispir is fully functional except we need to be sure it can reach all landline phones of subscribers without issue. We are in the final stages of testing this functionality. Our work on this has been delayed since late last year by successive extreme weather events when staff have been diverted to work on emergency response and recovery. In the meantime, there are many other alerting tools to notify people: • National Mobile Emergency Alerts on mobile phone devices • Red Cross and Geo Net apps • Growing use of other social media and digital platforms • Improvements with the cellular and rural broadband network and satellite technology • Radio and television coverage – which includes local stations like CFM, Nga Iwi FM and Coromandel More FM • Community Response Plans – where communities work together to help each other with support from our Council. I am also aware that the available technology and costs of tsunami sirens has changed significantly in recent times. Other councils in New Zealand are installing modern siren systems in coastal areas. There needs to be more research done and I made a pre-election commitment to follow this through. That work is ongoing and will be done in collaboration with our communities. Keep up to date with Council news by subscribing to our regular
Ngā mihi | Regards