Hundreds Take Part in Oxford Civil Defence Exercise

Published: 29-Jul-2019

Oxford was the stage for a major Civil Defence exercise on Saturday, as hundreds of people descended on the township to take part.  In the day’s training scenario, a large Alpine Fault Earthquake had damaged the township and participants were tasked with providing a welfare and health response to affected residents.

Field teams go door-to-door.Multiple organisations joined in with the training, including local health organisations, Civil Defence Response Teams, social service providers, emergency services and a large contingent of Red Cross personnel.

An Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) was established in the Oxford Town Hall to coordinate the emergency response and field teams were sent door-to-door on selected Oxford Streets to survey resident’s welfare needs. As part of the exercise, the door-knocking teams used new software that enabled information to be transmitted back to the EOC in real-time.

Emergency Management Adviser, Brennan Wiremu, says new mobile technologies have an increasingly important role to play in disaster response,

Red Cross Medical Tent and Civil Defence Centre“This is all about getting accurate information quickly through to our EOC and being able to build a better picture of how the community has been affected. It allows us to provide a summary to social service agencies, so they can deliver services quickly and tailor them to the known needs of individuals.”

Volunteers from the local community were also involved through roleplaying as casualties. With the clever use of makeup, they challenged those providing first-aid with a wide assortment of injuries, from minor bruises to large gruesome gashes. Others feigned heart attacks or shock, while a local Councillor provided an Oscar-worthy performance as a drunk patient desperate for more whiskey.

A Civil Defence Centre was established nearby in the Oxford Area School gymnasium for “residents” displaced by the emergency.  It provided an area for children, specialists from agencies such as WINZ and support from Ngāi Tūāhuriri iwi representatives.

Animal welfare was a big part of the exercise.Animal Welfare was also a large focus for the exercise, with staff from local Councils and the SPCA rehearsing for the large number of animals they could be expected to care for following a major disaster.  Four-footed visitors to the animal welfare centre at the Oxford A&P showgrounds included several dogs and one very vocal goat.

Brennan says recent disasters in New Zealand have provided a timely reminder to have robust plans in place for animals,

“As we saw during the Nelson fires, we may be required to evacuate and look after hundreds of animals, both big and small. So having an opportunity for our Animal welfare agencies to practice is incredibly valuable.”

Organisers say the exercise was highly successful and strengthened the welfare response capability of Waimakariri Civil Defence.  They extend their gratitude to all the volunteers involved in the exercise and the wider Oxford community for their support.