Emergency management system reform, fly-in teams funded to support communities

Civil Defence Minister Kris Faafoi has released the Government’s response to the report on New Zealand’s civil defence emergency response system, including funding of $5.2 million for specialist rapid response teams to support communities in an emergency.

The Ministerial Technical Advisory Group (TAG) was set up following the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake and the 2017 Port Hills fires. Mr Faafoi says the Government’s response needed to be robust and specific to ensure lessons were learned and people and communities protected.

“This Government is committed to ensuring all New Zealanders can rely on a system and a response that will support them in any emergency or disaster.

“Our investment in rapid response teams, known as Fly-In Teams, signals the start of a multi-year transformative work programme that will significantly improve our emergency response system.

“Fly-In Teams will have people with the appropriate skills and experience, including event controllers, to go wherever required, without delay, to work alongside and support the local team to ensure a comprehensive and immediate response is underway.”

A further $1million in new funding will progress other initiatives including the business cases for a new emergency management facility ($250,000) and a common operating picture across the sector ($400,000), and work on legislative changes required ($400,000).

Mr Faafoi says TAG recognised that the current system was fundamentally sound, but needs a number of improvements to meet today’s challenges.

“We’re seeing a growing number of events and risks in a complex environment and that demands that we clarify, strengthen, modernise and professionalise our response. We’ve also seen in the past nine years New Zealand’s ability to respond to emergencies has changed considerably – there’s new technology, new ways of working, and learnings from the experiences and challenges we have faced.

“The Coalition Government has agreed we need to make improvements and get consistency to ensure all New Zealanders are supported in any emergency.”

Mr Faafoi stressed that the review of civil defence was not any reflection on the contribution of the volunteers and professionals who respond to emergencies, who have his utmost respect.

“But this is about ensuring the system is fit for purpose in 2018 and the years ahead. We intend the Government’s response will deliver the lift and shift that we know is required by:

  • Putting the safety and wellbeing of people at the heart of our emergency response system.
  • Strengthening the national leadership of the emergency management system.
  • Making it clearer who is responsible for what, nationally and regionally.
  • Building the capability and capacity of the emergency management workforce, including particular focus on development of emergency event controllers.
  • And improving information and intelligence system that supports decision making in emergencies.

“Some of this is about continuing work already underway, and some is about reprioritising and refocussing efforts.  There are areas that would need significant investment and require further work, such as consideration of a new national emergency management agency and a better national emergency management facility.  That work will happen over the coming months.

“Local government has a major role to play in lifting the system and has made a significant contribution to help us get to where we have today. Many others, particularly iwi, also play a significant role and their contributions have also been instrumental.  These partnerships will remain critical and valued as we continue to progress all of this work.”

 

Focus

This means better and/or clearer:

Putting the safety and wellbeing of people at the heart of the emergency response system

  • Public warnings, particularly for tsunami
  • Public communication in a response
  • Identification of welfare needs
  • Participation of iwi/ Māori and marae

Strengthening the national leadership of the emergency management system

  • Oversight by a national emergency management agency (currently MCDEM)
  • Stewardship of the emergency management system
  • National standards to set minimum service levels and ensure operational consistency

Making it clear who is responsible for what nationally and regionally

  • Legislation to set out functions and responsibilities of local authorities
  • Authority for Controllers to coordinate emergency response
  • Decision making and communication about when an incident becomes and emergency and who is in control
  • Planning how agencies work together and who will do what, when

Building the capability and capacity of the emergency management workforce

  • Training and accreditation of Controllers.
  • Capability of those working in CIMS roles
  • Ability to assist local response efforts through Fly-in Teams
  • Volunteer capability and capacity

Improving the information and intelligence system that supports decision making in emergencies

  • Synthesis of information into a Common Operating Picture for decision makers
  • Integration of science advice into emergency responses
  • National capability through a new or improved national emergency management facility

How Fly-In teams work – There will be four teams with nine people in each team. The members of the team will have specialist skills, eg: Event Controller, communications, science.  They will be drawn from across agencies and civil defence groups and will receive appropriate training.  Their purpose is to provide immediate support in both capability and capacity.