7 April 2020
What’s happening in Rotorua Lakes Council’s Emergency Operations Centre
We know there’s a lot of information flying around at the moment from a lot of different organisations and sometimes it gets confusing trying to understand who’s doing what.
So we thought we’d shed some light on the Rotorua Lakes Council’s Emergency Operations Centre (EOC).
You might have heard that our EOC has been activated. But what does this mean and what does the EOC do?
Our EOC is part of Council’s Civil Defence Emergency Management function. We take direction from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), work regionally with Emergency Management Bay of Plenty (EMBoP), and locally with other EOCs, such as Lakes DHB’s EOC.
A Civil Defence response is most often associated with natural disasters such as flooding and earthquakes. But a Civil Defence response is also required for events such as pandemics – like we are experiencing now.
When the State of Emergency was declared in New Zealand last month, this meant all EOCs around the country needed to activate and be ready to help their communities.
The Ministry of Health and local District Health Boards are currently leading the health response to the COVID-19 pandemic and other EOCs, like Council EOCs, are working to support the community in non-health related ways such as checking on our vulnerable populations, making sure everyone has enough food and access to hygiene products, ensuring people have somewhere to stay and have access to important information about the COVID-19 response and that they understand it.
Currently Rotorua Lakes Council’s EOC is made up of almost 50 staff members. These are Council staff members who have regular, non-emergency, day jobs at Council but have also been trained in Civil Defence and are ready to be called on in situations like what we are experiencing at the moment.
Usually our EOC would be set up in Council’s Civic Centre building and everyone would operate from there, but because of the current COVID-19 Alert Level 4 requirements, many of our EOC team are working remotely. We are trying to keep only a handful of the team in the building and are following strict social distancing and hygiene protocols.
Our Local Controller, Bruce Horne, says, “This is very different to any other sort of emergency that any of us have had to deal with before but I consider myself very fortunate to have a fantastic team around me who are showing a lot of initiative as we grapple with all sorts of new challenges.
“Currently gathering and managing information is one of our most challenging tasks due to the size and complexity of this emergency. However we have great networks across the community and are using technology like Zoom and tele-conferencing to share information and collaborate with local Iwi, health professionals and other agencies.
“Our main role at this time is looking for gaps and identifying ways that we can support other agencies – in particular medical professionals and the police.”
The structure of the EOC follows the national model with teams working on information gathering and analysis, planning, logistics, providing welfare support to the community and providing information to the public.
Responding to requests for support is a key focus for our EOC at the moment. Our welfare team is working with iwi and other agencies in our community to ensure our most vulnerable people are cared for. With so many agencies working in the social sector, one of the challenges is developing an understanding of who is doing what, and making sure no one falls through a gap. If people are unable to access supermarkets or pharmacies, the welfare team works to ensure those people get the essential items they need.
Other parts of the EOC team are actioning requests for equipment and resources, others are planning for ‘What if’ type situations, some work at an operational level making sure everything is happening as it should, and others are planning our recovery for when we beat the pandemic and can return to a new normal.
“Although there is a lot to do, the EOC team is in great heart and doing a great job in challenging circumstances,” says Mr Horne.
“People often say that one of the great things about this community is the way that people pull together and support one another – and that is certainly true of our EOC team.
“If you are needing advice or help, or can’t find what you’re looking for on the COVID-19 website – call us. We’ve got a great team who want to help.”
You can contact our EOC by calling Rotorua Lakes Council on 07 348 4199, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- For up to date information about the national response to COVID-19 visit covid19.govt.nz
- For information on Council’s response to COVID-19 visit www.rotorualakescouncil.nz/our-city/coronavirus/
- For information about Council services phone 07 348 4199, or email email@example.com
- If you are struggling to get essential food, hygiene products, or medication to your home in the Bay of Plenty region phone 0800 884 222