Civil Defence Volunteers Turn out in Numbers

10 November 2009

It was a busy weekend for civic-minded Wellingtonians last Saturday, with more than 80 volunteers taking part in an emergency exercise, while several hundred Mt Cook residents kick-started their own emergency planning at the Arlington Resilience Gala.

The Council's Emergency Preparedness Manager, Fred Mecoy, says Exercise Phoenix tested how our volunteer civil defence network would cope with a large-scale disaster - in this case, a major earthquake.

"Volunteers from eight of our civil defence centres - Karori, Khandallah, Crofton Downs, Mt Victoria, Miramar, Northland, Clifton Terrace and Brooklyn - spent Saturday morning practising for a situation like this.

"The Council's emergency office issued the centres with search perimeters and the centres had to find information markers, each describing a different scene. Volunteers had to sift through the information and communicate the relevant facts back to us on the civil defence two-way radio," says Fred.

"And to keep everyone on their toes, we 'kidnapped' some of the centres' most knowledgeable and long-serving volunteers - in a real emergency, key people might not be available and it's important that as many people as possible know how to do these roles."

Mayor Kerry Prendergast took part in part of the morning's exercise and thanked the volunteers for their dedication and hard work. "It was fantastic to see our volunteers at work. It highlighted the hard work many people in our communities are putting in to prepare for a day we hope will never come.

"But it is vital that all Wellingtonians prepare - an emergency could come at any time and people could have to fend for themselves for days. There are simple measures which can be taken, such as storing water and food, which could literally be life-savers."

The volunteer firefighters' helicopter exercise ran in the afternoon on the waterfront, with volunteers demonstrating their airborne rappelling skills, while others performed a simulated rescue in front of a large crowd of spectators.

At the same time, a group of community-minded Mt Cook residents were running a resilience gala, bringing tenants of the Council's Arlington Apartments complex and other local residents together to motivate people to prepare for emergencies - and have a great time with their neighbours too.

Leigh Harrington from the Arlington Resilience Network says several hundred locals turned up to enjoy the bouncy castle, petting zoo, second-hand stalls and great food, raising enough money for the network to stock up on emergency supplies.

"All the civil defence experts we spoke to stressed the importance of two things in a disaster - water and relationships. This gala helped build these relationships in our community, as well as raising funds for the network to store emergency water and community first aid supplies," says Leigh.

Fred Mecoy says the weekend "really showed Wellingtonians are committed to preparing themselves and their community for a major disaster".

"It's fantastic to see people getting stuck in - and we always need more. If you're interested in becoming a civil defence volunteer, give the Council's emergency management office a call on (04) 460 0650 - we'd love to hear from you."