Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Civil Defence vs Emergency Management

Just been reading the latest issue of Impact. There's an interesting article in the back about the results of the National Colmar Brunton CDEM Survey which was conducted in June 2009, and its follow-up. Some focus groups in Canterbury were asked about the Civil Defence branding and concept, with some interesting responses.

Personally, I'd love to get rid of "civil defence" as a term, and replace it with "emergency management" and "community resilience" and so on. Civil defence is a concept that is so very Dad's Army, and doesn't match up with the modern principals of emergency management, and actually reinforces the misconception that "someone else" will come to the rescue. The responses mentioned in the article only reinforce that for me.

Civil Defence Logo

"The civil defence logo clearly gives the community a degree of comfort and a feeling of safety - perhaps more than would be ideal when the objective is
to encourage and enable community self help and resilience."
Many still think the civil defence army will come and save them on day three of the disaster - some kind of significant organised response (plastered with CD logos, obviously). Um... what army would that be then? Where can I find them? Do they live in the bunker under the Beehive? In cold storage? I'd really love to be able to pull an army out of the cupboard when required, but I can't use what isn't there.

Thankfully, the younger generations seem to have a better understanding of the realities of the situation, and have a higher expectation that they are going to have to look after themselves, and work with other people in their community to help sort things out. They seem to get that there is no mystical army, they get that they are it. If you are looking for your rescuers, look in the mirror, look in the next room, and next door, look around you in church, or at the corner store. That's where you'll find them, they are you, your family and your community. We're just here to help you do your thing.

"Interestingly, there were some younger participants who suggested the brand should be retained only to ensure older members of the community, who had grown up with it, did not feel less secure. These responses indicated a degree of social awareness that some may find surprising, but also an insight into the impact that the civil defence brand may actually have on fostering preparedness and resilience."

So, what do you think? What does civil defence mean to you? Does it give the wrong message? What does emergency management mean to you? Do they mean different things?

Quotes from Survey reveals community perceptions: Impact, Vol 36, December 2009, Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management, page 11.


Woo! Felt that one. Just waiting for the stats on it from GNS, will update as soon as I have them. Must be quite local.

EDIT: Yup, quite local - 10km northwest of Porirua!

The following earthquake has been recorded by GNS:
Reference number: 3212649/G
Universal Time: 2009/12/22 19:09:56
Local time (NZDT): 08:09 AM on Wednesday 23 December 2009
Latitude, Longitude: 41.04S, 174.73E
NZ Map Grid (E, N): 2655000, 6018000
NZ Trans Merc (E, N): 1745000, 5456000
Location: 10 km north-west of Porirua
Focal depth: 50
Magnitude: 4.3
Web page:

Monday, December 14, 2009

Discovering what it's like to be stuck at school

On Thursday last week, a class of 11 & 12-year-old kids from Discovery School in Whitby got a taste of what it would be like to be stuck at school after a major event like an earthquake.

In the week prior I got a few calls from the pupils asking if I could come in and talk to them about emergency stuff during their earthquake simulation day on Friday 11 December. They were going to spend the whole day and overnight at the school living like they would in an emergency. Awesome, I'm in!

However, their teacher, Mr McManaway, had been very sneaky, and gotten to me first. So, in collaboration with the parents, we sprung it all on them a day early! It would hardly be a realistic exercise if the kids have a sleeping bag, a tent, and dinner for four tucked away in their school bag, would it?

10am on the Thursday an earthquake struck while the kids were at phys-ed. The sound system played the realistic rumbles and crashes of an earthquake while the kids dropped, covered and held. Once the aftershocks stopped (the track got stuck on repeat...), we all made our way back to their classroom, and they discovered the wreckage.

Tables upended, bookshelves toppled, possessions strewn across the room, tree branches through the windows, "broken glass" everywhere. Total carnage! It took a good while to get it cleaned up and made liveable again. Because living there was what they were going to have to do - possibly until Saturday morning, which, as far as the kids knew, was when their parents were going to pick them up.

Once they had things tidy, we took stock of the situation. I gave them the run-down on what was expected of the school in such situations, and we all discussed where their parents worked, how long it was likely to take them to get to the school and so on. We had a look at the emergency supplies that were available, and thought about how to ration those. Some kids hadn't had any breakfast, and some had planned to buy lunch so didn't have any food with them at all. There were presentations on emergency food and water, and how to dispose of sewerage in an emergency.

A bit before lunchtime we headed over to the library to discover that the earthquake had affected it as well, and there were injured kids inside who needed their help. I was well impressed by their first aid skills.

I had to head off around lunch time for another meeting, and when I left the kids were still under the impression that they were going to have to use a bucket for a toilet.

I got back shortly after 5pm, and the kids were still being kids, and the teacher was looking slightly frazzled, but nobody had gone cannibal yet. The emergency survival food was dug out for dinner and consumed with varying degrees of enthusiasm. We then sat down to watch the show that screened after Aftershock - the one about the family surviving for three days on their emergency stuff. We thought the kids were probably a bit young to inflict the full movie on them.

The next plan was to sort out all the sleeping arrangements. The kids spent a goodly while building forts and tents out of the available furniture before we decided that, since we had a perfectly intact roof, the curtains would be more use as blankets rather than tents. Some interesting "debates" about group versus individual needs.

The kids had pretty well bedded down for the night by the time I headed off arounf 9:15pm. Their parents were scheduled to pick them up at 10:30, so they could go home to their real beds, and be vaguely functional human beings for school the next day.

A really interesting day!

How's your back-up plan coming along?

Many Telecom XT customers have been left hanging today, with "an unplanned restart" of Telecom's Christchurch XT Mobile RNC switch (whatever that is), which resulted in the majority of XT cell sites south of Taupo not operating from around 6am.

So, how'd you fare without your precious cellphone? Did business grind to a halt? How much money did you not make today because of that simple little disruption?

There is no guarrantee of service, even at the best of times, so have you thought about how your business can carry on functioning without the cellphones working? How about if none of the phones are working? Or if the power goes out? Or if your computer network goes down for the whole day? How are you going to do your job? Have a think. And if there isn't a way to do your job without these things, have enough insurance to cover your losses during such times.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Severe Weather Watch - heavy rain & strong winds

A severe weather watch has been issued by the MetService for heavy rain affecting the Tararuas and possible severe northwest gales for Wairarapa and Wellington - Friday evening to mid-Saturday.

Missed it

Another quake off the Kapiti Coast - 4.1, 40km down and 40km northwest of Otaki. I was even in Kapiti at the time, and didn't feel a thing.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Rangikura School

Spent an entertaining afternoon at Rangikura School. They've just completed their classes on emergency preparedness, and spent the whole day outside, making emergency shelters, living off bottled water and cold tinned food, practicing first aid and making improvised stretchers. Some of the shelters were better than others, some were really quite impressive and stood up well to today's winds and even some rain, some less so - but it was a great test of the kids' common sense and practicality. Well done! Awesome bunch of kids. We'll definitely be back when they do it again next year.

Movers & shakers

The last Regional Welfare Advisory Group meeting was somewhat interrupted by the Samoan tsunami, and then this morning's meeting was interrupted by a 5.1 quake near Otaki! I'm pretty sure it's been minuted that we should schedule meetings for when there aren't any events, please, thanks.

Don't forget to lodge a report if you felt it.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Cloud burst!

Now that was a sudden downpour! The weather radar looks remarkably patchy, but the bits that do show up indicate quite heavy rain.

Take care while driving out there - heavy rain like that can make driving conditions pretty hairy.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

State Highway 2 closed at Te Marua Lakes

Not exactly Porirua's turf, but regionally significant.

A large slip has blocked the southbound lane of State Highway 2 next to the Te Marua Lakes in Upper Hutt. The danger of more slips is high, so the road has been closed entirely.

Absolutely no idea how long it will take to clear - they have to wait until it's stabilised enough for the contractors to begin clearing it safely.