Kāpiti Coast District Council has two important roles during the 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 with six EOCs staffed and run by councils around the region.
Kāpiti’s EOC was activated on March 25. Staff are operating remotely to co-ordinate a localised response to the national pandemic plan. Functions include intelligence, planning, operations, logistics, welfare, public information management and recovery.
Council group manager place and space James Jefferson is the local controller for the Kāpiti EOC.
“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,” James says. “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 grassroots 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 is the council welfare support helpline. Since March 26, the EOC team has made 50 needs assessments by phone. Calls have resulted in food parcels being delivered, and essential items such as clothing and winter blankets have been sourced. 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’re operating in an environment where you can’t use your established community and volunteer groups to assist it adds another layer of complexity.”