Safety is all about being aware and prepared for what you would do if something unexpected happened, a safety consultant told a group of disabled people and community leaders in Auckland on Saturday.
“In a disaster expect chaos,” said Tony Lewis of Tony Lewis Consulting. “Attitude and mindset are key to surviving. No matter what systems are in place, nothing is certain and you are ultimately responsible for your own safety.”
The workshop, organised by Diversityworks Trust, was held in response to the earthquake in Christchurch. Reports show disabled people fare worse than non-disabled in emergency situations.
“The workshop showed us that most people have planned their response to only a quarter of potential disasters and consequential hazards,” said Trust Director Philip Patston. “Planning is essential for anyone, but if you have limited mobility or particular support needs, it could mean the difference between surviving or not.”
A key message was to ensure people had a minimum of three people who would contact them in the event of a disaster. Workshop participants were advised to make sure at least one was in a different city, so that they were not affected by events.
Council and Fire Service officials attended the workshop and supported the concerns raised. “The disability sector is one that I am keen to work with in my upcoming role,” said Catherine Gilhooly, emergency management co-ordinator with the welfare portfolio for the central area of Auckland.
Diversityworks Trust has been contacted from people outside Auckland who are interested in the workshop being repeated. “We’d certainly like to hear from others who are concerned about supporting people to be ready for the unexpected,” said Patston. “Anyone who wants to be part of a safety network can sign up at Diversityworks Peer Support Network http://dpsn.net.nz and join the Disaster Safety Group.”
Participants were advised to equip themselves with emergency and getaway kits with any medical or disability support necessities. “But above all, in a worst case scenario, tell yourself to be calm,” said Lewis. “Being calm keeps you safe.”