Shake-up, Shakeout for civil defence
It was a rocky beginning for the Wellington Regional Emergency Management Office (WREMO).
WREMO, an amalgamation of the region’s civil defence offices, came into being one day before a magnitude 7 earthquake struck the North Island.
Bruce Pepperell, who heads the new service, said the earthquake was a timely reminder for Wellingtonians to make sure they were prepared for the big one.
He also said the amalgamation of the region’s civil defence offices would allow for better sharing of resources, information and expertise.
‘‘Before [amalgamation] we weren’t as connected as we could have been,’’ he said. ‘‘You want consistency of approaches and messages.
‘‘We can be more effective with 20 people working together than two or three or five people working separately.’’
WREMO is the result of the Capability Assessment Report, prepared by the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management after the Christchurch earthquakes.
Under the new regime, 20 staff will be spread across offices in Thorndon, Lower Hutt, Porirua, Kapiti and the Wairarapa.
There was also a strong network of volunteers, said Mr Pepperell.
‘‘Wellington city has a robust, vibrant network of volunteers and I would like to take that model and use it throughout the region,’’ he said.
‘‘If there are other good initiatives, even from other parts of the country, we shouldn’t be too ashamed to use them.’’
Mr Pepperell comes from a military background, having spent 36 years in the New Zealand Navy.
‘‘There are a lot of parallels [in this role] with the military. I was a logistician, the anti-warrior. The warriors broke everything; I fixed it all up.’’
But civil defence is not just about ‘‘fixing things.’’ It is also about ensuring residents are prepared for natural disasters.
‘‘Ninety-nine per cent of the time we don’t have emergencies, so what we should be doing is spending that time building community resilience.
‘‘And it’s not just about earthquakes. An earthquake could arrive tomorrow or in 500 years, but every year there are significant floods and storms somewhere in New Zealand. We need to be ready for those too.’’
To encourage individuals and organisations to take disaster preparation seriously, civil defence is hosting Shakeout, a nationwide earthquake drill.
‘‘At 9.26am on September 26, everyone who has registered will be expected to drop, cover and hold. That’s really the basis of the exercise,’’ said Mr Pepperell.
‘‘ We want people to register themselves, their families, schools, firms.’’
To register for Shakeout visit getthru.org.nz or shakeout.govt.nz.