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Forecasting our emergency season - are you prepared? - and updates from NZ

24 October 2017

Hi everyone,

I was in Wellington last week with Michael Legge and our New Zealand Red Cross colleagues. There is so much we can, and do, learn from each other. The three-day visit was jam packed. We talked about our mutual role in the Pacific, what we both do to support refugees, our work in emergencies and disasters, initiatives to grow volunteering and membership, fundraising, people development, data security, and a lot more. It was great to get to know Niamh Lawless (their new Secretary-General) – she and I will be able to support each other a lot. It was also good to spend time with Jenny McMahon, New Zealand Red Cross President, who has an amazing background including many ICRC missions

Volunteers from New Zealand Red Cross reaching out to communities affected by the earthquake.


Christchurch, changed forever

The threat of earthquakes is ever present for the team in NZ – the fact that there is an empty plot of land right next to their Wellington office where there used to be a building is a daily reminder.
We talked about how they prepare for and respond to earthquakes and their repercussions. The 2011 earthquake in Christchurch is still keenly felt.  On one hand, there are shoots of growth and rebirth. On the other, many people continue to grapple with the fact they no longer know their city, their neighbours or what the future holds. Many who have been away from Christchurch for any length of time find themselves disoriented on their return, by the magnitude of change. Thousands more have moved away to settle elsewhere in NZ or overseas.

One family that Red Cross’ recovery program supported, illustrates the disruption. In the space of two years, they moved house nine times with their four children, only once by choice. The knock-on effects were enormous, with parents exhausted and some of their children failing to meet developmental milestones. New Zealand Red Cross has worked tirelessly in communities affected by the earthquakes, reaching out to over 110,000 people in the last seven years.

Here are a few short stories and a video documenting their work in this space.

New Zealand Red Cross’ award-winning fundraising idea

Red Cross Journey is a new fundraising event, launched in May. It is a virtual challenge event where participants aim to do 10,000 steps a day to raise funds. When participants register, they choose to follow either the journey of a former refugee family now settled in New Zealand or a Red Cross volunteer. Throughout the duration of the event, participants receive video updates of the journey they have chosen, learning about that person’s experiences and the role of Red Cross.

New Zealand Red Cross more than doubled their target in terms of the number of people participating and nearly doubled the amount they wanted to raise.

It was heartening to learn that schools got involved, with one signing up a quarter of their students and a team of teachers. There were also businesses participating, including one with staff signing up as regional teams. One team also tied it to disaster preparedness by getting neighbours together, meeting up in the CBD after work and walking 25km home!

The Red Cross Journey initiative won the ‘Best Innovation in Fundraising’ award at the international Red Cross Skillshare Conference in the UK last month.


Back home – our disaster forecast for summer

The seasonal outlook shows a high chance of all types of disaster events over the next six months. This is unusual for Australia – generally the outlook is either fire/heat events or flood/cyclones, not both.

Our winter has been drier and warmer than average and this severe lack of rain in many areas heightens the bushfire risk. It also means our soils are drier, which will heighten heatwave conditions. We face a drier and warmer summer (especially in the west) and bushfires have already started.

Dry soils will, at least, be ready to soak up any rainfall, but the Bureau of Meteorology is predicting a raised flood risk – particularly, flash flooding from thunderstorms and cyclones. They are anticipating an average number of cyclones (4-5 crossing the coast) however, the severity of these cyclones is expected to be higher than previous years.

Are you prepared?

As we work to achieve our strategic outcome of equipping 3 million Australians to prepare and recover from disasters, it would be remiss if we weren’t ready for our own personal, workplace and community emergencies. Please, do one simple thing to prepare yourself and your family:

  1. Do the quiz – it will take you 5-10 minutes
  2. Download our app and ‘Get Prepared’ – if you have an Apple device.
  3. Touch base with your neighbour to encourage them to download the app too!

How are our Emergency Services teams responding?

Our emergency services teams across the country are currently undertaking a range of activities to prepare for the heightened risk of disasters.

We have completed national mapping to identify any gaps in capacity and capability before summer and are currently doing a range of activities to prepare. In addition, w're developing new ways of working and improving existing ones – for example:

  • Strengthening pre-deployment activities, including preparation and training for our emergency services volunteers
  • Developing and deploying an Australia-wide Team Leader Training Package. This package will be piloted in four states and territories in November
  • Creating a ‘your roles and responsibilities’ document, designed to provide all members of the Red Cross Emergency Services workforce with information and guidance on what they can expect and what is expected of them when deployed. This will be part of all deployment packs once complete
  • Improving what we’re doing to ensure wellbeing and safety in the field throughout emergencies
  • Strengthening child protection in the field, by deploying child protection officers
  • Working with the Australian Psychological Society to support our team members during and after deployment