Emergency Response

In recent times, particularly through the Christchurch and Kaikoura earthquakes, we’ve become increasingly aware that recreation professionals and the facilities and services they manage and provide can offer more in a civil defence emergency than has previously been realised.

The purpose of this article is to describe some of the contributions that the recreation sector has to make. A workshop was run in Wellington before the latest earthquake in Kaikoura and brought together the Civil Defence Emergency Management team and recreation personnel to explore this. The process and results of this workshop are presented as a case study of what is possible.

The recreation sector – its personnel, facilities, parks and networks – are of significant value in the event of an emergency. The resources that are available in an emergency include:

• Large-scale facilities with play equipment able to be used in a range of contexts

• Well trained and plentiful staff who are fit, healthy and equipped with first aid skills

• A workforce that is rostered, flexible and comfortable working in a team structures

• Well established community networks and relationships

• Spaces that are sometimes used for shelter, ablutions, and designated welfare centres providing co-ordinated services

• A place and personnel with positive associations for people in distress

• People who are already working for the good of others, with a strong social and community focus.

• Sectors such as the Parks have access to 4WDs, radio channels, chainsaws and probably trained in fire fighting for first response.

Consideration needs to be given to how the recreation sector can participate in each stage of civil defence emergency management. What are the risks of a civil defence emergency, and how might this impact on the recreation infrastructure? What can be done to reduce the likelihood of an emergency impacting on your facility and services? Thinking about the probability and significance of any risk will enable good CDEM planning. If your facility or open space is in a flood plain, tsunami zone or vulnerable to earthquake, what are the the likely consequences for people using your facility or park and its integrity after an event?

How might we respond to an emergency? If people are in our facility or participating in our programme, what is our duty of care do we have to them and what resources need to be available? Our customers may be displaced or isolated from their families in our facilities. What can we provide in terms of first aid, search and rescue, a caring person and place? Recreation providers need to consider business continuity planning so that issues of ongoing provision are identified and strategies developed to mitigate these. A swimming pool might have its water requisitioned for drinking supplies, and as such, might need staff with water treatment skills on site. A park might need to become a tent village, with banks of latrines. A recreation centre could be a triage centre, with first aid staff conducting assessments of the injured. Skating rinks could be the local morgue.

Initially we must all ensure that we are ready ourselves. Our own safety and that of our families will be paramount and will need to be taken care of before we can expect to contribute towards a wider effort. This is also the case for our staff. Check (and make sure your staff check) your home civil defence kits, have a communication process with key friends and whanau, know your local setting and likely situations that may arise. It may even be pertinent to contact your local Civil Defence staff to obtain as much useful information as possible.

As an organisation you will need to determine your role and that of your staff. Now is a prime time to look into the policies and processes that you have in place. What needs to be revised, updated and disseminated and to whom? Do you undertake regular training and exercises? Do you have a duty of care for clients? What equipment can, or should you be able to provide?

During the process of planning and facilitating the workshop we discovered that although considerable planning has taken place with individual staff and some service teams, there were some gaps in the regional understanding about the valuable contribution that recreation can plan in all phases of civil defence emergency management. Partnering with the regional co-ordination team has been invaluable and mutually beneficial. By building partnerships now, we can all be better prepared for an emergency and start to create the changes that will enable individuals, their teams and their facilities and services to fully contribute to the response and recovery phase of a civil defence emergency.

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