Emergency management and resilience

The fourth and final climate action workshop focused on emergency management and resilience. The previous ones looked at how we could take action to prevent climate change. This one looked at how we could be prepared for the impacts of natural disasters, which are increasingly caused by climate change.

The Wellington Regional Emergency Management Office’s (WREMO) Nickola Loodin took us through an alarming rundown of the hazards in this part of the world:

  • Three major earthquake fault lines in the region (Ohariu, Wellington and Wairarapa), all of which could cause large, damaging earthquakes
  • The Hikurangi subduction zone off the east coast of Wairarapa could cause both a massive earthquake — up to a strength of 9 — and a catastrophic tsunami that would reach this side of the island.
  • More than 80,000 commuters go into the Wellington CBD each day, which would massively add to the challenge of caring for people if they were there when a disaster struck.

A tsunami from the Hikurangi zone would take 20–30 minutes to reach Pukerua Bay. There are no coastal tsunami warning sirens because they aren’t resilient enough. In the Japan earthquake in 2011, many were knocked out by power cuts and damage in the initial earthquake and didn’t warn people of the tsunami. Porirua City Council is in the process of painting tsunami inundation zones on the ground over the next 12 months. If you have walked around Island Bay and Lyall Bay, you may have seen them as blue lines painted on the footpaths.

Here is the Pukerua Bay tsunami evacuation map.

WREMO defines the natural disasters and emergencies they are concerned with as ‘life-disrupting events’. They encourage communities to prepare for the worst-case scenarios, such as earthquakes and tsunamis. If we can manage those events, we can cope with the lesser events. In many of these situations, everyone becomes an emergency manager, so we all have to be prepared.

We can start by asking, “What would our life be like after a major event?” “How can we reduce the disruption from a major event?”

Being prepared for disaster

  1. Create a Grab Bag. You can create your own (Read the checklist here) or buy one. You normally need to add other items, like good walking shoes and medication, to them.
  2. Store enough water for seven days. The minimum is 3 litres/person/day for basic survival. That will be enough for cooking, drinking and very basic hygiene. Twenty litres/person/day is recommended. You should change it every year and have bleach in the household to purify it just before drinking. A 200 litre tank (available at a low price from local councils) is recommended.
  3. Know how to make an emergency toilet, either a long drop or the ‘two bucket’ method.
  4. Store enough food and essential supplies to last seven days, including pet food. If you can afford it, buy a little extra each week and rotate it through your pantry so it doesn’t get too old before being eaten and replaced. Buy an extra can or two each shop and set aside. If you have a barbecue or camping stove, keep the gas bottle full.
  5. Have a good supply of your essential medicines. Keep a record of them and the doses so you can get more if you run out. If possible, store enough in the grab bag to last a week. Your doctor might give you an extra script for emergencies.
  6. Make connections with your neighbours and others in the community.

Further planning and training

The Pukerua Bay Community Emergency Hub is the Pukerua Bay Hall at the school. There is equipment stored there for emergency use.

A few years ago, WREMO ran a Community Response Practice exercise with a number of scenarios from an earthquake. They are an excellent way of learning what the roles are in an emergency hub and how we would have to organise ourselves following a disaster. If there is another one, we will publicise it and encourage people to take part.

WREMO online resources

Wellington Regional Emergency Management Office (WREMO)

WREMO – Get prepared — advice for households and businesses.