Representatives of the different groups involved in the Owhata West Community Outreach.

What happens if?

Pictured are Representatives of the different groups involved in the Owhata West Community Outreach.

The Christchurch and recent Hanmer Springs earthquakes have taught us that in an instant our lives can be changed by a natural disaster.

Despite this, most of us still think it will never happen to us and do little to prepare for such an event. Eastside Rotorua has a number of factors we should be thinking about. A significant number of our housing stock is on reclaimed swamp land. In an earthquake, liquefaction could be a result. We also live amongst active thermal activity.

Given these points, the offer of taking part in an outreach exercise with the Red Cross, Civil Defence, Fire Service, Rotorua Maori Wardens, and the Mokoia Community Association was quickly taken up by Aspen Place Initiative and their Owhata West community. Teams of volunteers went from door to door to see how prepared members of this community were if there was an emergency. Residents were asked if they would like to be street contacts for their area. Information was given about emergency planning and the offer of having a smoke alarm installed was also provided.

A command centre was set up at Owhata Primary School, simulating what would be done in an emergency. During the outreach exercise, some young people took up the opportunity to role play being isolated from their family with no means of contacting them. This gave the Red Cross volunteers the opportunity to practise what they would do if they came across this situation for real.

Lake Okareka also had an outreach and door knocking exercise. This exercise included a water, sanitation and hygiene assessment to see how much water they would need to live on during an emergency. And just to answer the question I know you are asking, the recommendation is that you should have on hand a minimum 3 days supply of food and water, with best practice being up to 2 weeks!

Overall there were lessons learnt across the two communities. It is comforting to know that our emergency services are making the effort to learn these lessons now so we can all be ready if a disaster happens.

If you would like more information about how to be prepared, a great place to start is This website provides information on situations such as having no phone, power or internet, not being able to get home, or if you need to evacuate. Of course, the best time to find out what to do in these situations is now!