Storm shows we are all Civil Defence
More than one online commentator wondered on Friday what "civil defence" was doing about the state of the roads.
The roads were flooding, they said, so shouldn’t Civil Defence do something about it?
Sure, the district’s councils were closing roads left, right and centre, but shouldn’t Civil Defence do its part, too?
The truth is, it was doing its part - and the flooding that at times paralysed parts of South Canterbury brought it to the fore.
The declaration of the state of emergency was just the next step among many taken by those managing us through the storm.
The emergency management teams were the official face of the response, but the response went much deeper.
Civil defence is not a single organisation. It is an amalgam of many different groups that come together to manage an emergency.
It is also not just an amalgam of groups. It is also a bunch of people often not part of a formal group, and it is the sum total of all their actions.
Civil defence is all of us. It is a recognition of our responsibilities to ourselves and each other in an emergency, and an acknowledgement there are people there to help.
The more-than 50 callouts attended by South Canterbury’s paid and volunteer fire crews on Friday were acts of civil defence, as were the innumerable traffic calls and home visits performed by police. The 80 lines company contractors who worked to keep power flowing around the region, and the contractors attending to flooded roads and properties, were all there for civil defence.
The council workers and contractors who cleaned drains and traps many days ago did so
‘‘The emergency management teams were the official face of the response, but the response went much deeper.’’
for civil defence, as did the St John officials who readied their rosters of volunteers.
At the community welfare centres, the volunteers readying for an influx of evacuees were performing their part for civil defence. The Timaru Herald/Stuff journalists who worked over the emergency were there to help readers understand the emergency, too. Elsewhere, civil defence actions happened without being labelled.
Neighbours were checked by telephone and door knock; dry wood was taken next door, cooked meals were offered and tractors were made ready. Family, friends and neighbours said they were ready to help if the worst happened: some needed to help clean up in the aftermath.
The past few days have also shown there is plenty of room for us to be more effective in making sure we weather any storm.
How many of us have plans for an emergency, and how many of us are sure our homes and businesses are as resilient as possible?
How many of us know about the community emergency response plan for our area, or where we can go for help?
The past few days have shown we all have a responsibility to contribute, in our own way, to civil defence before, during and after an emergency.
Get to know your neighbour. Volunteer for a community group. Take time to understand someone’s job. After all, we are all civil defence.