A new volunteer programme with a focus on community-driven emergency management has seen the Wellington Region Emergency Management Office (WREMO) recognised with an international award.

The Oceania Council of the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) has awarded WREMO the ‘Partners in Preparedness Award’ for its volunteer programme based on a new, community-driven emergency management philosophy.

WREMO Regional Manager Bruce Pepperell says that the change to a community-driven emergency management philosophy reflects the idea that emergency preparedness can be enhanced by building strong relationships with community-based systems that are already in place.

“In the past, the volunteer programme focussed on a traditional structure where a few volunteers were part of a top-down, response-driven structure – no one was taught how to help their community get prepared, or provide local leadership in an emergency,” said Pepperell.

“The new philosophy reflects that established community groups and leaders can be embraced and supported to build resilience across the community.”

Kāpiti Coast Mayor Jenny Rowan, Chair of the region’s Civil Defence and Emergency Management Group, agrees that community-driven volunteering is the way forward.

“Volunteers can champion the preparedness message amongst their own networks, giving it coverage that we simply could not achieve otherwise,” said Mayor Rowan.

The new volunteer programme is broken down into four modules – personal and community preparedness, sourcing and communicating information, providing comfort and working with the community after a large emergency. Three key principles of flexibility, coordination and customer service underpin the modules.

WREMO Community Resilience Manager Dan Neely says that another difference from the old system is that individuals are able to determine their level of involvement. Opportunities to stay engaged are plentiful for those who complete the course, but volunteers are able to decide what level of engagement suits their interest or availability.

“People are often too busy to volunteer in the old sense of the word,” says Neely, “but they’re happy to spread the preparedness message within their networks and will stand up in an emergency – we appreciate that.”

The IAEM judges said the WREMO programme “stands apart from others, with its strong emphasis on connectedness and preparedness while continuing to build solid community response capacity.”

Through the programme, WREMO has been able to attract and engage “with a much broader cross-section of society, allowing for more opportunities than ever before.”

Released:
16 July 2013