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What would you do in a disaster?

Waitaki App

Ashley Smyth

11 March 2024, 8:52 PM

What would you do in a disaster? It's not a matter of if, but when a natural disaster will happen. Photo: Ashley Smyth

Preparing for a major disaster is not just about you and your family, it is also worth considering who will be there to help you, if you don't help yourself.


Emergency Management Otago (EMO) engagement advisor Erica Andrews said it is important for people to take a few minutes to think about how many emergency responders there are in Waitaki.



“We've got fantastic men and women who work in Fire and Emergency New Zealand, Police, St John's, Land Search and Rescue . . . There's a whole lot of people who dedicate their time to the community, but if you put all of them in a room in front of the population of Waitaki, very quickly you can see that there's not enough to help everybody.


“I'd love to see people just think about that and go, ‘well, okay, what can I do then to help myself and my family’.”


The first place to start is to have an understanding of what hazards you could be affected by, Erica said.


The Otago Regional Council has a hazards portal, where you can put your address, and see what natural hazards are most likely where you live.


Once you know what could happen, then you can start preparing for that, she said.


There are a couple of things people can do to do to help themselves, and the first is to create a household preparedness plan.


“That covers a whole lot of things including, you know, how do you contact your children's school, or who might be picking your children up, should there be a disaster, and you're not able to get there.


“It includes things like the contact numbers for your power and gas. It includes things like, you know, having your emergency supplies available.”


Previous advice about having an emergency kit ready has been modified, and now people are encouraged to know where things are at home - but they don’t necessarily need to be contained in one place.


It can be challenging for people to have extra food, torches and batteries, or water supplies in the home, Erica said.

 

“So know where your torch is, know where your spare batteries and your transistor radio are, have that water stored definitely - three litres a day per person is a minimum. And plan for seven days.”


She encourages people to ask the question of themselves, ‘what would you do…’


“What would you do with no power? What would you do with no running water? What would you do with no internet?  


“So asking those questions, what would you do? That should help create a plan.”


The preference is, in the case of an emergency, people stay in their own homes, if it’s safe to do so, but you should have a grab and go bag ready with necessities, if you do have to leave home in a hurry, she said.


“So it might be a medication, it might be something to keep warm, it might be important documents.”


And we need to remember to plan for any pets, and consider them among emergency supplies, and also in the grab bag.


“And also how will you bring your pets with you . . . and to your place of safety, if you do have to leave your home?”


It is also important to create connections with neighbours, and determine if there are people nearby who might be a little bit more vulnerable, and need help, should an emergency arise.


“Have a conversation with them. Have they got someone to help them? And if not, is there anything that you could do to maybe help them?”


Drinking water can be stored for about 12 months, before it needs to be replaced, but avoid plastic milk bottles, as milk residue can taint the water.


Erica recommends the website getready.govt.nz - it contains a lot of information and is translated into about 12 different languages, she said.


If there is an earthquake - people are encouraged to remember the catch-phrases for the correct actions: “Drop, cover, hold” and “If it’s long and strong, get gone”. 


If you are near the coastline, and it is hard to stand up, or the shaking lasts more than a minute, it’s time to move.


“You know, we don't have time for official warnings. That is your warning. That's Mother Nature's warning to say, ‘get away from the coastline’.”


About one kilometre uphill or inland is what is recommended, and then once in a safe place, listen to the radio and/or watch other media outlets for official information to come out, she said.


Staying up to date with what is going on is essential in an emergency, and Emergency Management Otago has a Facebook page and a website, which will be up to date with the latest information, but having a radio is also integral.


Flooding is the most likely natural disaster in Ōamaru and its surrounds, but following a rupture of the Alpine Fault, the impact is expected to be seen and felt in the Waitaki Valley.


“The alpine fault is due to have a rupture, really within the next 50-odd years,” Erica said. “All the science to date tells us that it's a bit overdue . . , a lot of damage is expected from that, you know, roads will be broken, which impacts a whole lot of things.”


A lot of work is going on across Otago by EMO around catastrophic planning, Erica said.


“We've got some fantastic lifeline partners - roading, water, a whole lot of people, telcos, power companies that we work with - to start planning how we would manage something like that. But I think we shouldn't be under any illusion, it'll have a generational impact. 


“Now that's not to scare anybody. I mean, yes, life will be different, but, you know, if you prepare to look after yourself with those things we talked about earlier, then it will make life a little bit easier.”


On April 15, EMO will launch a preparedness survey, to help the organisation understand people’s levels of awareness around hazards and how prepared they are.


The survey will take five to 10 minutes, there will be a QR code to scan, and links will be on the Waitaki App.


There is an opportunity to win one of five family-sized Grab and Go bags. 


“As time goes by, the more we can understand levels of preparedness and hopefully it will encourage, even one more family, if they see, you know, the poster around or they take an opportunity to click on the link on the app to complete it.


“There's no right or wrong in this space. I think it's just about encouraging people just to think about it and take that first step if they haven't already.”