This is not an exercise: Kāpiti’s emergency operations centre responds to the COVID-19 challenge
The Kāpiti Coast District Council has a dual role during the COVID-19 pandemic – to staff Kāpiti’s Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) and keep core essential services running.
While the Ministry of Health is the lead agency for a pandemic response, Civil Defence has a role to play in ensuring all responding agencies are connected. In the Wellington region this is led by the Wellington Region Emergency Management Office (WREMO) with six EOC’s staffed and run by the relevant councils: Kāpiti Coast, Upper Hutt, Lower Hutt, Porirua, Wellington and Wairarapa.
Kāpiti’s Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) was activated under the State of Emergency declared by the Government on March 25, and is now in its third week. Council staff assigned to the EOC are operating remotely to coordinate a localised response to the national pandemic plan. Functions include intelligence, planning, operations, logistics, welfare, public information management and recovery.
Kāpiti Coast District Council’s Group Manager Place and Space, James Jefferson, is the Local Controller for Kāpiti’s EOC and is coordinating the Centre’s response.
“At the heart of our work is making sure our residents most in need have access to food, clothing, and other essential items to keep them healthy, safe and warm,” says Mr Jefferson.
“This is not without its challenges during a COVID-19 Alert Level 4 lockdown as we are not immune from the need to stick to the rules and limit our movements around the district.
“Standing up a virtual EOC has been a real test of our agility but we have people who are well connected in the community so we’ve been able to get some good grass-roots intelligence. This has helped us to identify the community need and make informed decisions about how we should respond, while working within the Civil Defence and Emergency Management Act framework.
“An example of this is the Council welfare support helpline. While the majority of vulnerable people in our community have family, friends and neighbours they can call on to help them get essential supplies, we recognise that for some people this isn’t the case.
“The Council’s welfare support helpline is there to make sure these people have somewhere to go for help. Since 26 March, our team has carried out 50 needs assessments by phone. Some of these calls have resulted in food parcels being delivered, and some have seen us source essential items such as clothing and winter blankets. The team has also organised the coordination and delivery of prescription medicines and connected people with the relevant government agencies for accommodation or financial support.
“This sounds simple enough but when you are operating in an environment where you can’t use your established community and volunteer groups to assist it adds another layer of complexity.
Mr Jefferson says while the Kāpiti EOC team undertakes regular training exercises, this pandemic response is new and unprecedented for everyone working to support the Ministry of Health and National Emergency Management Agency-led response in New Zealand.
“Good people, systems and processes will be what gets us through. This is a marathon not a sprint. Our pandemic response will be sustained for some time yet as we work to support the ongoing health, safety and wellbeing of our community, minimise disruption to essential services, and support the region to recover from the impacts of COVID-19.
- If you need urgent support to access essential supplies call the Council welfare support helpline on 0800 486 486. The helpline is staffed between 7am and 7pm, seven days a week
- To learn more about the Council’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic visit https://www.kapiticoast.govt.nz/our-district/cdem/
- To access support available through Government agencies go to www.covid19.govt.nz or call the free government helpline on 0800 779 997 (8am to 1am, seven days a week).
- For health advice call Healthline free on 0800 611 116.