Our lead role in Hawke’s Bay’s emergency response
Right off the back of a Fire and Emergency Simex, Area Manager Ken Cooper arrived home only to get right back into emergency-mode a week later, responding to the Hawke’s Bay flooding.
Fire and Emergency’s role in the multi-agency response, which was led out of Napier Fire Station, helped push the incident into recovery mode quickly, using our Geographic Information System (GIS) and coordinating our partner agencies’ volunteers, as well as our own.
Ken said his team knew a storm was coming, and they’d prepared with their emergency services colleagues, but the volume of rain was far vaster than predicted. Between 5pm and 6pm, 54mm had fallen causing landslips and power outages.
“We worked closely with Red Cross, Civil Defence, Napier City Council, New Zealand Defence Force, Hawke’s Bay DHB Public Health and local iwi, Te Tai Whenua to ensure an integrated approach from response to recovery.
“We split into small multi-agency teams for welfare checks of people and property, and to collect data using GIS to inform our decision-making. This helped identify quick, targeted mapping which moved us into recovery quickly,” said Ken.
Working with the iwi was fundamental in coordinating the community clean-up, which included about 140 volunteers.
Ken said, “Our coordinated volunteer numbers were so strong that a school principal had said to media his school was so devastated by the floods that they wouldn’t open until next year. Once we heard this, we coordinated volunteers for a big clean-up, and with community help the school opened on the Monday.”
Hon Kiritapu Allan, Minister for Emergency Management visited Hawke’s Bay and was pleased with Fire and Emergency’s response to the flooding, which was named a one-in-250-year event.
During the peak of the flooding, ComCen received 700 calls, and 350 of those required a response.
Within the first hour and a half, our team had coordinated 90 volunteers, and by 4.30am they had visited all of those events needing a response.
Over the last three years, emergency services in Hawke’s Bay had together developed a response plan. While the plan wasn’t yet complete, it was stood up, and helped drive an effective and coordinated response which kept the community safe.
Our people were outstanding in the response. The effort came from our communication centre people, our media team, alongside a mix of career fire fighters and volunteers, including our Urban Search and Rescue function that was mobilised from our central team.
A key outcome of the response for Ken was a stronger relationship built with Te Tai Whenua which has led to other joint initiatives. The Hawke’s Bay teams are starting to set-up on a mentoring initiative and work to get more Māori youth involved with Fire and Emergency.