CD emergency centres missing in some areas

BRIDGET RAILTON
Last updated 05:00 12/03/2014

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Some areas in Southland do not have any welfare centres for people to go to in civil emergencies but Emergency Management Southland says help will still be available if disaster strikes.

A civil defence co-ordinating executive group has reviewed all Southland buildings designated as welfare centres for use in civil emergencies, such as earthquakes, flooding and tsunami.

The review found some southern areas lacked appropriate sites.

Townships prone to river and stream flooding, including Otautau, Riversdale, Mataura and Wyndham, may have problems in finding a suitable building while in Riverton, there were no suitable buildings located outside the possible tsunami inundation zone.

In addition to this, a large number of towns with 1000 people or less would need initial building assessments post-earthquake if they were to be used as welfare centres which would result in delays in assistance, the assessment found.

Emergency Management Southland manager Neil Cruickshank said it was a concern that not all towns had a designated place but the reality was if there was a large-scale devastating event, no building would be absolutely guaranteed.

Southland had a lot of small towns so it was unlikely they would ever have a solution that fitted everybody, he said.

The assessment gave the group a good idea where any weak points in the region were, he said. At the moment the group was in talks with Stadium Southland owners to see whether it would be the most likely destination for Invercargill people to go in an emergency.

But it would be dangerous for people to assume that there would always be facilities available to go to straight after an emergency, he said.

Emergency Management Southland adviser Sandra Miller said welfare centres were broadly defined and could be anything from a physical place for people to take shelter during an emergency or simply a place to phone and register details and gather information.

People normally gathered with friends, family or neighbours after an emergency and a physical welfare centre venue for people to shelter was a back up for those without anywhere else to go.

She strongly advised people to have their own survival kits with enough supplies to last three days.

Without formal assessments of the buildings earmarked as welfare centres there was no certainty around how they would stand up to a strong earthquake.

However, engineers would be called on to assess any building identified as a potential welfare site, she said.

Southland was lucky in that in cases where extreme flooding was imminent, people in threatened areas would get plenty of warning to evacuate, as would those in tsunami areas, she said. 

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- The Southland Times

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