Emergency teams to be 'focal point'

03:18, Jul 29 2013
Stimes photo
A basic emergency survival kit.

Welfare teams are being set up around Marlborough to deal with emergency events such as the magnitude-6.5 earthquake that rattled the region on Sunday last week.

Marlborough District Council emergency services officer Gary Spence said he had been working on establishing 14 welfare sectors throughout Marlborough for the past six months.

Many areas had already established welfare teams comprising volunteers from the community.

Each team has a manager, and co-ordinators responsible for communications, accommodation, catering, first aid, animal welfare and information.

The team would provide a focal point for people to assemble, establish communication with the Emergency Operations Centre in Blenheim and create a contact and resource list.

Welfare teams from Okiwi Bay to Ward were being set up, with welfare centres being finalised in each of the 14 areas.


A mobile welfare centre would be established at Stadium 2000 for people in Blenheim's residential zone, with town buildings as emergency accommodation.

A team of 15 people had been established in Renwick, but some areas were lacking in volunteers, Mr Spence said.

Before the meeting in Seddon on Thursday night, only two people had come forward and volunteered to be a part of the Seddon welfare team.

"That did surprise me," Mr Spence said.

"It's human mentality that it will never happen to us - people always think someone else will be there to help."

People needed to take responsibility for themselves first, he said.

Every household should have an emergency kit and a getaway kit.

The emergency kit should have enough food for at least three days, but ideally each family would have food and supplies for a week, Mr Spence said.

"People expect flashing lights and sirens straight away, but it doesn't work like that."

It takes time for the Marlborough Emergency Management team to assemble at the Emergency Operations Centre in Blenheim, assess the damage and risks, brief the team and then contact each area in the region to organise the next step.

Welfare centres should not be relied upon for accommodation, Mr Spence said.

"As soon as you start feeding people, providing bedding and a place to sleep for nights on end, you have a whole new dynamic," he said.

"You need security, you have to manage the cultural aspects.

"People will still be looked after, but other resources like billets, motels and maraes will also be used."

Marlborough had Base Woodbourne and Defence Force resources at its disposal.

"There are lots of options for people other than a stretcher in a welfare centre," he said.

While the 6.5 quake did cause damage to some parts of the region, especially in Seddon, if the Christchurch quakes hadn't happened, people would be less afraid, Mr Spence said.

"The emotional fallout from Christchurch has made people gun shy," he said.

"New Zealand is a shaky place. We get quakes all the time and people need to be ready."

Marlborough Emergency Management says each household should have three things:

1 - A plan.

Families and households needed to discuss what they would do in the event of an earthquake or emergency event, including where they would go and where they would meet if they were to be separated.

2 - An emergency kit.

The kit should be easily accessible and contain enough supplies for a family or household to survive for at least three days.

Each kit needed to be relevant to those using it, including medication, nappies for babies, and pet food.

The kit should include a transistor radio and an analogue phone that plugs into the phone jack in the case of a power outage.

3 - A getaway kit.

In the event you could not go home for a few days, the kit should be packed with items such as walking shoes, warm clothing and copies of important documents.

Welfare Centres in Marlborough:

Okiwi Bay - Okiwi Bay rural fire station

Rai Valley - Rai Valley Area School

Canvastown - Te Hora marae

Havelock - Havelock School

Linkwater - Community hall

Picton - Waikawa Marae

Rarangi - Rarangi fire station

Wairau Valley - Community hall

Renwick - Community Memorial hall

Seddon - Seddon School and Awatere Rugby Club rooms

Ward - Ward School

Spring Creek - not confirmed

Riverlands - not confirmed

The Marlborough Express