Keeping Up With Culverden (Civil Defence) – The Group is Formed
Keeping Up With Culverden is a new series looking behind the scenes at the setting up of a Civil Defence Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) in Hurunui District. It follows their progress from starting up to becoming independently operational.
Daylight savings has ended and the windows are showing as dark rectangles against the white walls of the Culverden Fire Station when the new Culverden Civil Defence team gathers around the table at 7pm.
The team has come from all walks of life and includes retired farmers, stay-at-home parents, roading contractors, a dairy farmer and even a bakery owner. They are all volunteering their time and skills, united by a desire to do their bit to keep their community safe in the face of a disaster.
Culverden Civil Defence wants the best for its community and its volunteers are starting a journey to train themselves for the unthinkable.
Newly-appointed Culverden Civil Defence coordinator Gregor McKenzie, a retired farmer, starts the meeting. The group assigns roles to everyone. Self-doubt creeps in for those who haven’t volunteered before but they are encouraged to hear they are starting a learning process. They will receive the training and tools they need. For some, their roles fall easily into their personalities or occupation – logistics, gathering information, welfare. For others, they will grow into their new skills.
“This first meeting is about bringing the team together, helping them to understand civil defence practices and the needs of their community, says Hurunui District Council Emergency Management Officer Allan Grigg. “We’re usually looking for around 12 people to cover all the roles needed.”
Culverden has put forward 20 volunteers.
Working with Allan, they identify the greatest threats to their community, weighing the likelihood of the event occurring against the potential devastation such an event would wreak. The Alpine Fault comes in at number one, followed by a severe snow event.
While the fire station will be the team’s coordination centre, Grigg stresses that during a disaster, public-facing Civil Defence Centres for supporting communities would be set up and their location clearly communicated as the place for people to come to for assistance or information. “Generally, where possible, a coordination centre will be a community hall, churches, clubrooms – we’ve even had it in someone’s home where there was a dedicated space to store equipment and spread out maps.
“Historically, we know the majority of people saved during an emergency are saved by community members and bystanders, so it makes a lot of sense to invest time and resources in upskilling and enabling our communities to help themselves and each other.
“This is why these teams are so important,” says Grigg.
- This Civil Defence preparedness training is replicated across Hurunui District’s nine Civil Defence sectors of Cheviot; Hawarden-Waikari; Culverden; Hanmer Springs; Waiau; Waipara; Motanau-Scargil-Greta Valley; Amberley and Mt Lyford.