New plan to strengthen disaster response

MICHELLE COOKE
Last updated 12:23 11/12/2012

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A new inter-agency plan aims to strengthen the role of Civil Defence so it can better respond to instances such as the fatal Christchurch earthquake.

The Corrective Action Plan brought nine agencies, including the Fire Service and police, together to develop a more efficient approach when responding to future civil emergencies.

It followed an independent review into the response to the Christchurch earthquake, which found that while overall emergency services performed well there were a number of ways on how the process could be improved.

The review of the response to the February 22 quake said there were weaknesses and tensions between Christchurch City Council and Civil Defence which "put people and property at risk".

An inquest into the Canterbury Television (CTV) building, where 115 people died, heard that fire and police had "dropped the baton" by failing to ensure staff knew who was in charge, with a United States disaster-response expert saying three Fire Service executive officers had "struggled to respond effectively".

The action plan, released by Civil Defence Minister Chris Tremain today, aimed to improve the strength of Civil Defence in New Zealand by adopting a more efficient interagency approach.

The Plan involved the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management, State Services Commission, police, Fire Service, Defence Force and the Ministries of Social Development, Health, Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Business Innovation and Employment.

"The Corrective Action Plan is based around 10 themes, with coordinating agencies responsible for each theme and Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management coordinating the overall plan," Tremain said.

The 10 themes included management and control, front line response, emergency welfare arrangements, lifelines and information management.

Some of the actions were straightforward but others could take up to two years to complete, Tremain said.

The plan is largely based on the 108 recommendations made in the independent review.

Calls for territorial local authorities to no longer have control over the response to civil emergencies and for the ministry to reside within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet rather than the Department of Internal Affairs, were two of the four recommendations which were not adopted in the plan.

Recommendations which would be put into action included forming a group of highly trained emergency managers from across the country and developing a plan to better support health services and other welfare centre providers.

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The review suggested there was a “lack of clarity” around incident control at specific sites affected by the February 22 earthquake and recommended training by all emergency services in this area.

While the police did not agree with some of the review’s views, police have said that incident control at major rescue sites is included as a part of its updated approach to command training, the action plan said.

The Fire Service also planned to review its procedures and training in regards to effective incident control and would also work with the police on joint development of a training programme.

The outcomes of the plan would be incorporated in the National CDEM Plan and the Guide to the National CDEM Plan.

The ministry would report on the progress of the plan to Cabinet in December next year.

- Stuff

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