WEMO Volunteers Graduate

23 August 2010

A new breed of civil defence workers is emerging. This week sees the graduation of the first group of Wellingtonians who've volunteered to be trained under a new approach.

Volunteer Maxine Rainford on emergency communications

Volunteer Maxine Rainford on emergency communications

The Council's Emergency Preparedness Manager, Fred Mecoy, says these volunteers have been chosen for their leadership potential, energy and 'can do' attitude, and will be an essential component in strengthening the city's civil defence capacity.

"Volunteers are crucial to ensuring a successful response in a large-scale emergency," he says

"We've had excellent support in the past and we're building on that by adding training that's not been available previously. We want to ensure a smooth transition from the old system to the new so we encourage volunteers to work with us to achieve this objective.

"We're giving volunteers the know-how to become leaders in their community areas with modern training in the core skills needed to deal with a wide variety of situations."

Mr Mecoy says civil defence is not just about earthquake planning but is also focused on local events, probably weather related.

So far, around 60 volunteers have been trained in the new approach. This includes existing volunteers who haven't had the opportunity of accessing this training in the past. They've trained for seven weeks, one night a week, on an induction course developed with help from the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management.

"In an emergency this group will run the civil defence centres around the city, providing vital information about what's happened in the neighbourhood," says Mr Mecoy.

"Because the volunteers will have to quickly swing into positions of considerable responsibility at a moment's notice, the voluntary positions are viewed in the same way as Council staff.

"Before volunteers are accepted for training, they're interviewed and asked to check the job description to ensure their expectations match the reality of the situation."

The volunteers then go through the induction course and can choose whether they will go on to more challenging training, involving NZQA unit standards. The high standards continue - each year, every volunteer is asked to take part in at least four 'qualifying' events to keep their skills current.

They must also carry out regular monthly tasks such as checking equipment, and will be asked to sign up to a Code of Conduct. Mr Mecoy says the result of the new training will be a focused and adaptable group capable of dealing with a wide range of situations.