Hi and welcome to an introduction into emergency management for Elected Officials or Members. The intent of this video is to give you the base knowledge of what is expected of you as an Elected Official in emergency management.
Elected Officials have an important role in the leadership and advocacy for community safety and, providing a reality check on community and city/district wide plans for handling major emergencies. Their role or your role is ensuring the management of risk is a priority and to encourage and support your communities to be well prepared.
The Big Picture for Emergency Management
The Civil Defence Emergency Management Act (CDEM) 2002 required the establishment of Civil Defence Emergency Management or CDEM Groups based on regional council boundaries.
CDEM Groups are consortiums of local authorities working in partnerships with emergency services and other stakeholders such as lifelines (infrastructure) utilities and welfare organisations to deliver Civil Defence Emergency Management at a regional and local level.
General roles in an Emergency
Elected Officials have key roles to fill in an emergency, especially Mayors and the Chairs of Regional Councils. Elected Officials can make a declaration of State of Emergency within their local authority/territory.
It must be stressed that in an emergency response, the Civil Defence Controller is the decision maker in terms of information, public statements, and response actions, and the Elected Officials support the Controller in this regard. They should act as a team. Broadly speaking, the role of Elected Officials remains similar to ‘business as usual’ in that operational matters are under the leadership of staff while Elected Officials continue in their governance roles. For instance, Elected Officials public presence during emergency can be reassuring for the community, and the information that they provide through helps to reinforce key response messages and reassure the public. For example, Mayors are likely to have a role with the Controller in speaking to the media, and Elected Officials may be invited to community meetings following an emergency event. Elected Officials may also have an important liaison role with central government and national leaders, the local community, overseas interests, and regional authorities.
Declaring A State Of Local Emergency
- Firstly, it should be stated that the effective management of an emergency does not necessarily require a declaration of a state of emergency. A state of emergency is only declared to invoke special powers under the CDEM Act 2002. These powers include for instance the ability to give directions, evacuation and entry of premises, closing roads and public spaces, etc.
- Nor is it necessary to have a declaration in place in order for the CDEM Group to make financial claims to central government. Claims (eg, for emergency welfare costs) can be made regardless of whether a declaration is in place or not.
- Under the CDEM Act, the following may declare a state of emergency:
- An appointed official of a CDEM Group,
- A Mayor of a territorial authority, or an Elected Official of the territorial authority designated to act on behalf of the Mayor if the Mayor is absent,
- The Minister for Emergency Management.
- The delegations allow for a cascade of decision making depending on who is available. In short, Mayors can declare a state of local emergency for their district or city or wards thereof,
- If the Mayor is not available, an Elected Official of that territorial authority, designated to act on behalf of the Mayor, may declare a state of local emergency,
- If no appointed person is, or is likely to be, able to declare, any Elected Official of the territorial authority can make that decision.
Preparedness for Emergencies
Elected Officials need to confirm their own personal preparedness to be able to fulfil their role during emergencies. This involves:
- Each Elected Official needs to ensure their own personal safety, and that of their whānau. Elected officials have key roles in an emergency which will often mean long hours away from the whānau,
- Plan for this now so you know your whānau are supported during what could be a stressful time,
- Elected Officials should wherever possible contribute to the planning process, support public education initiatives and participate in training in their council, to ensure you are familiar with the requirements of your role in a response. It is likely that Mayors will receive more targeted briefing given their leadership roles.
As an Elected Official you also have a responsibility to support Business Continuity for Local Government:
- Under the CDEM Act 2002, local authorities have a responsibility to ensure that it is able to function to the fullest extent possible, even though this may be at a reduced level during and after an emergency. This is because Councils are responsible for essential services, such as drinking water and roads.
- Elected Officials should seek reassurance that the local authority has business continuity plans that are sufficiently robust to enable it to continue to operate essential services during an emergency.
Elected Officials Roles During An Emergency
- Elected Officials have key roles to perform in an emergency, whether a state of local emergency declaration is made or not,
- During the response to an emergency, Elected Officials have a key role in providing community leadership. This is achieved by –
- Being there to identify the needs of the community and providing this information into the Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC) at the regional level or the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) at the local level,
- Directing members of the public towards the right places to get the support they need,
- Acting as a conduit for information as requested by the Controller and/or Public Information Management (PIM) team,
- Dispelling rumours and correcting misinformation,
- Considering recovery issues.
- The major difference between the flow and release of information in emergencies and during business as usual is that in an emergency, the Controller becomes responsible for making all the decisions on how the emergency is managed, and this includes the release of information,
Elected Officials In An Emergency Operations Centre or EOC
- As part of CDEM Group’s arrangements, territorial authorities have an appropriately resourced EOC to provide an effective response to emergencies. In some cases not all territorial authorities have EOC’s; in these cases they have an arrangement with a neighbouring council or with the Group to provide this service,
- These centres are the hub of the response, under the direction of the Controller. They are not set up to provide accommodation or facilities for Elected Officials,
- The same principles apply to the establishment of the Emergency Co-Ordination Centre or ECC at the CDEM Group level during an emergency response.
Elected Officials Roles During The Recovery Phase
As community leaders, Elected Officials will continue to have an important role in the recovery process. This role is vital to rebuilding, restoring, and rehabilitating your communities.
- While CDEM will still be involved in recovery, the focus will often return to individual territorial authorities and other organisations as they implement their recovery plans,
- Recovery can be multi-faceted and long running involving many more agencies and participants than the response phase. It will certainly be more costly in terms of resources, and it will undoubtedly be subject to scrutiny from the community and the media,
- Having begun at the earliest opportunity, it should continue until the disruption has been rectified, demands on services have returned to normal levels, and the needs of those affected (directly and indirectly) have been met. It could last months or even years, and will normally be led by an appointed Recovery Manager,
- Your role as an Elected Officials can play a part to include:
- Listening to the community – Elected Officials have a key role as the voice of the community,
- Be the eyes and ears ‘on the ground’ by providing a focus for and listening to community concerns,
- Gather the views and concerns of the community, and feed them into the recovery phase; and
- Provide support and reassurance to the local community, by listening or visiting those affected and acting as a community champion and supporter.
- As an Elected Officials you will also provide support to those working in Recovery through:
- Providing encouragement and support to Recovery teams working within the community, and
- Working with the Communications team to communicate key messages, to the media and to disseminate credible advice and information back to the community,
- Keeping community members involved and managing community expectations, and
- Actively engaging with community members involved in the recovery efforts.
- During the recovery phase, Elected Officials can expect to attend public and stakeholder meetings to provide information to and support for your affected community,
- Ongoing media interest is to be expected. Elected Officials can expect to continue receiving regular and relevant briefings, and to act as a conduit between the recovery and the community for an extended period.
Elected Officials Roles in reducing the impacts of Emergencies
As an Elected Official you play a key role in Risk Reduction:
- Reducing the risk of natural hazards in our communities comes under the remit of many pieces of legislation, many of which are discharged by Local Government, such as the Building Act and the Resource Management Act,
- Elected Officials can play a key role in ensuring that we reduce risk in our communities through the way these Acts are applied to council work,
- As an Elected Official you also support Community Resilience:
- Considering the many events that have occurred in Aotearoa over the last decade, and that emergency events are becoming more frequent, community resilience needs to be front of mind for Elected Officials,
- Elected Officials can play a key role in community resilience by –
- Promoting and encouraging the preparation of community response and recovery plans,
- Using their local knowledge to identify local groups and partners who may be able to play a role in response and recovery,
- Promoting resilience within the community and managing expectations,
- Actively engaging with community members involved in community resilience work,
- Being involved and reviewing emergency plans.
Changes on the Horizon
- New legislation to modernise the emergency management system is coming,
- The Emergency Management Bill will shape on what already works and will replace the now two decades old Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002,
- It will not be a fundamental transformation of the emergency management system but will instead address a number of identified improvements to ensure the system can meet current and future needs,
- The new legislation will mean that Aotearoa’s emergency management system will be more inclusive, modern, and fit-for-purpose,
- The Bill will, for example, better enable Māori participation throughout the system, at governance, planning and operational levels – This will be done by recognising the crucial role Māori and marae play in community response to emergencies and emergency management generally,
- A programme of work to build capacity and capability has been underway since a Ministerial Review highlighted vulnerabilities in the system, particularly in the response phase, following the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake and the 2017 Port Hills fires,
- Information about the Emergency Management Bill can be found on NEMA’s website, including copies of Cabinet decisions about the policy for the Bill.
- The Emergency Management Bill is currently being drafted and is likely to be introduced to the House of Representatives in late 2022, or early 2023.
That concludes your introduction into emergency management.
For more information please visit the NEMA website or alternatively access NEMA’s Learning Management System Takatū. Takatū will give you more information and insight into emergency management.