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Key Messages for Civil Defence Emergency Management

1. Disasters happen, quickly, and without compassion. We can’t prevent them, but there are steps we can take to reduce the impact and be better prepared to recover quickly.

2. Flooding is the most frequent and damaging hazard in New Zealand and the number one cause of declared civil defence emergencies. Besides floods and storms, we have a range of other hazards here in New Zealand that we need to be prepared for - earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunami.

3. While volcanic eruptions are potentially the most underrated hazard in NZ, earthquakes can be the most damaging. One of the more significant disaster scenarios is a major earthquake on either the Alpine or Wellington faults. One regional study in Wellington gives the estimated impact as 657 fatalities for a daytime event, with 137 if at night. EQC estimates its claims settlements for residential homes alone following a large earthquake would total up to NZ$6.8 billion.

4. Infrastructure. In addition to natural hazards, technological development has created new hazards and risks. Reliance on lifeline utilities (power, gas, water, sewerage, communications and transport systems) leads to greater vulnerability in the event of their failure. Add to this the new threats posed by hazardous substances and introduced organisms and terrorism and we have a range of hazards that can have a significant impact on our lives.

5. Don’t think if, think when. The risks posed by New Zealand’s natural hazards are a fact of life. Important that all New Zealanders know what to do before they have to do it to look after themselves and their loved ones.

6. You could be on your own for 3 days, maybe more. In a major event while people can rely on emergency services and civil defence to do their job, the reality is that this demand is likely to be overwhelming for all agencies in the immediate aftermath of an event. It could be up to three days before essential services such as water, power and telecommunications are restored, and damaged infrastructure (roads, rail, bridges) repaired. This is when individuals and communities are most vulnerable and it is essential that they plan to be able to look after themselves for at least three days.

7. You can take some simple steps to be better prepared to reduce the impact of disasters when they happen. All individuals/families need to to act now to protect loved ones/homes/community.
  • Day time event – families are likely to be separated- mum and dad at work/kids at school/daycare. Telecommunications likely to be affected.
  • Develop a household emergency plan
  • An emergency survival kit is a must –
food and water for at least 3 days
radios, torches, batteries
alternative cooking if power and gas is disrupted
emergency clothing
essential medicines/first aid kit
supplies for babies
  • A Getaway Kit if you need to be evacuated
  • Know how to respond. This information is available in the Yellow Pages in the phone book which is in every home
  • Know the civil defence warning siren when you hear it.
  • Know how to help others - being a good neighbour/people with special needs on the street/those who need support/treating the injured – first aid
  • Your local council is responsible for the management of Civil Defence. Locate your nearest council

8. Be prepared at work
  • Businesses are likely to have to look after their staff
  • Business continuity and emergency plans at an industry level

9. If you are on the road, have a commuter kit. Most motorists are unprepared though they could potentially spend a long period stranded in a vehicle.
  • In an earthquake pull over to the side of the road when safe to do so and stop
  • Stay in vehicle or transport
  • Check battery radio/car radio: Torch: Water and snack food: Essential medicines:Waterproof clothing/flat shoes

10. So what does it mean for me and my family. All New Zealanders need to know about the specific hazards in their community and how to respond. They can get information from their local Council on the hazards and what planning is in place to deal with the hazard.

11. Plan to get back to normal. Recovery preplanning - necessary to consider before disaster strikes. Ensure insurance is kept up to date/that important documents can easily be gathered if you have to evacuate

12. Who/what is civil defence. Correcting the myths
  • There isn’t an army of dedicated civil defence people trained, equipped and waiting to be deployed in an emergency
  • Civil defence is the coordinated response to a major event which involves the emergency services such as Police, Fire and ambulance, possibly Defence forces, working with the local authorities’ civil defence staff (and volunteers) to respond.
  • Civil defence is only activated when an event is beyond the capability of Police or Fire to deal with on their own and where a coordinated response is called for. eg- February 2004/Bay of Plenty floods.

13. The new CDEM Act 2002. What’s different. The formation of 16 regional CDEM Groups to:
  • Better coordinate across the whole spectrum of reducing the risk, being prepared for , responding to, and recovering from.
  • Better pre- planning and coordination between civil defence, emergency services and key lifeline utilities such as power/water/telecommunications/transport.
  • Required that a CDEM Group Plan is prepared identifying hazards and what is being done to deal with the hazards.
  • And this plan must be consulted on with the community. So people have an opportunity here to be involved in the process.

Generic preparedness media messages

Making it easier to get ready: household checklist
The easy-to-use emergency checklist and planner is aimed to get households to plan what they will do in the event of an emergency

Download the Household Emergency Checklist and Plan (pdf).

Research tells us that over 75% of New Zealanders are aware of the impact that disasters can have and the need to be prepared. Yet only about 25% say they are prepared and can cope for three days or more in a disaster. While awareness of the need to do something is high, too many of us have a tendency to put it off when we have so many other urgent priorities.

Optional key media messages your spokesperson can focus on:
  • The risks to us here are ( your hazardscape)
  • Everyone should have a household emergency plan where they have worked out what they will do in various scenarios, safe places to shelter at home, where they’ll meet, who’ll pick up the kids etc
  • Ensure you have the essential emergency items at home to be able to look after yourselves for three days or more.
  • A little time spent getting ready now can greatly reduce the impact of the disaster when it happens

Get Ready Now So You Can Get Through
Civil Defence is urging New Zealanders to make a start now to be better prepared. Events around the world, and here in New Zealand in recent years have certainly raised awareness of the impact that disasters can have, and the need to take action to look after ourselves, and our families.

The Get Ready Get Thru television, radio and print campaign urges individuals and families to plan now so that they can better deal with the impact of a disaster. But it would seem that even though awareness may be high, many New Zealanders have not planned for how they will cope in a disaster event, or taken steps to looks after themselves and their families.

Make a start with two simple steps
Civil defence urges everyone to make a start by having a Household Emergency Plan, and ensuring you have the essential emergency survival items to cope for up to three days or more.

Step 1 – Have a Household Emergency Plan
A critical first step is to have a Household Emergency Plan. Why is this important? There are many types of disasters that could damage roads and disrupt your ability to travel. Essential services like phones and power are likely to be affected. Sitting down with your family and discussing the hazards that can affect you and what you will each do can safe lives, and greatly reduce the anxiety and stress when disasters happen. For instance, if the earthquake , tsunami, storm or flood event happened during the day when mum and dad are at work, and the kids at school, or out shopping or on the way home, does everyone know what to do. Head home, stay put, meet at an agreed point? The Household Emergency Plan provides a basis for families to discuss the various scenarios and work out a plan for what each person will do.

Step 2 - Ensure you have emergency survival items to cope for 3 days or more
In the event of a major disaster caused by an earthquake, storm or flood, or volcanic eruption, the reality is that help cannot get to everyone as quickly as they may need it. It is in the immediate aftermath of a disaster that individuals and families will be most vulnerable. Likely scenarios include disruption of essential services like power, water supply, telecommunications and transport. Communities could become isolated as a result of damaged roads and bridges etc.

That is why it is so important for individuals and families to make sure you have the essential emergency items to cope on your own till help can get to you. Many of the items that are on the list are likely to be items you already have at home – torches, radio, batteries, food and water, alternative cooking such as a barbeque. You don’t have to have them packed away in a bag untouched, as long as you check that you do have the essential items, and can find them easily (and in the dark maybe) during a disaster. A list of the items can be downloaded from the website.

Other important items include a first aid kit, or any special medications. If you have to plan for babies and small children, you’ll have to ensure you have sufficient food and formula for them. Also if you have pets, they need to be included in your planning. And if you need to evacuate or leave your home in a hurry, you will have to plan to have a Getaway Kit that has essential items and important documents etc.

There is information available from the website and from local councils on what you need to do to get ready. Take that first step now to be ready so that you can be better prepared to look after yourselves and your loved ones.

Media Releases Disaster Awareness Week 09 - Examples of media releases that you can customise as needed