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Part 6. Your community's response

Local ideas and solutions for challenges you may face

Checking on people and damage

Information is incredibly valuable in an emergency.  How can we know what has happened and who needs help, and what needs fixing if we don't gather information? 

We need to make sure no one is left behind, and that everyone in the community is checked on after an emergency – whether it’s for rescue and medical assistance, or just basic support and information.

  1. Contact everyone in the community as soon as possible. 
  2. Record and report information and situational awareness on people and damage back to the Hub. 
  3. Regularly check everyone in the days following the event as people’s circumstances may change.

Help if you can, but do not put yourself in unnecessary danger to save someone else. You don’t want to become a casualty. Contact the emergency services by calling 111 in all life-threatening situations. 

Sometimes all you can do is keep other people from being harmed. Let people know there is a hazard, and keep other people away from the hazard if you are able. This may include helping people evacuate an area. 

  • What the problem is 
  • What you have done 
  • What still needs to be done, if anything
  • Start with known affected areas or groups that might need extra assistance.  There will be parts of your community that you think are more vulnerable than others. 
  • Draw upon any local lists and knowledge. 
  • Are you aware of areas that have had problems in the past? 
  • Are there known earthquake-prone buildings? 
  • Is there infrastructure that you are worried about? 
  • Are there facilities that you want to be able to use to help the response? 
  • Identify who could get around the community to check on people and look for damage - are there existing community groups who are used to working together, or have some resources, such as hand-held radios that could be useful? Walking groups, church groups, Community Patrols and four-wheel-drive clubs, are just some examples. Do you belong to a club or an organisation that could help? 
  • Coordinate a street-by-street, house-by-house check. 
  • Use the area maps in the Hub.
  • Record any information on the impact to the community. For example, status of roads, building damage, and peoples unresolved needs. Report the information back to the Information Coordination person at the Hub. 
  • Staying in contact with the people you have already checked on should be done frequently, as people’s circumstances can change after an event.

Medical assistance

Medical help will save lives! We need to make sure that everyone who needs medical assistance can get help. This may be urgent first aid, or it may be help with the ongoing medical issues that people had before the emergency. Check on people you know to have health issues or disabilities. 

  • Are there medical facilities in your community? 
  • If people show up at the hub in need of medical help, direct them to the closest medical facility, if there is one available. 
  • You might need to organise transport to get people to help, or get help to the people who need it.
  • First aid kits in homes and workplaces, the first aid aisle at the local supermarket and pharmacy, and improvised bandages are all ways you could provide some extra first aid supplies.  
  • If someone knocked at your door tonight with a bad cut, could you help them stop the bleeding? 
  • There may be automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) in your community that could help save a life today.
  • Learn where they are in your community, as every second counts.   
  • You can find your local defibrillators using a smart phone and the AED app, available on Google Play, and the Apple Store. 

If you are a medical professional and you cannot get to your usual place of work, please go to your nearest medical centre and provide what help you can. If that facility is not open, please go to your nearest Community Emergency Hub. 

If you are a first aider, provide what help you can to your neighbours and your community. If you are able to help more, please offer your assistance at your nearest Community Emergency Hub. If the medical centre needs extra assistance, this is where they will go to ask for more help. 

In all life-threatening situations, contact the emergency services by calling 111.


Shelter is an important part of survival, so we need to make sure everyone in our community has somewhere safe and comfortable to stay. 

Find places where people can shelter from the weather if they can’t stay at home, preferably comfortable places where people can rest and sleep. 

Many people will be able to stay in their own homes, and this is ideal as people are much more comfortable in a home environment. 

Are there simple repairs that could be done to make a home safe enough for people to stay there, could you find tools and supplies to make repairs?  

Encourage people to stay with friends or family if possible, and if you can make your spare beds and guest room available, please offer.  It could be as simple as offering: 

  • Guest rooms 
  • Campervan/caravans 
  • Tents 
  • Couch space 
  • Camping mats/stretchers 
  • Air mattresses 

You may have visitors to your community who don’t live locally – commuters, shoppers, employees etc. These are the people most likely to need accommodation in your community. Tell the Emergency Operations Centre the number of people who need accommodation. 


People need access to clean water for drinking, cooking, and hygiene purposes. 

Hopefully everyone is storing emergency water at home, but you may need to look after the people who aren't from your community, or those who didn't have enough. 

There are water reservoirs all around the region for those areas on reticulated town water supply, but many of these automatically seal if pipelines are damaged. Technicians must manually reopen valves, and they may take up to a week to get there, so look for other sources of water within the community right away. 

Coordinate community water sources

Arrange a place in the community where water can be distributed if needed.  Some of these places have already been identified. 

Key Considerations

Some schools and community centres have large water tanks installed. If there is one in your community check to see what their plan is for using the water. 

Collect rainwater.  It doesn't go too many days without raining in our region! 

Treat any non-bottled water.

After a week, water may be available from water distribution points.  Officials may need your help with setting up those locations and transporting water people who need it.  Have you got a van or ute, or a trailer?  Are you good at connecting hoses?

  • Local streams and open bodies of water are not reliable sources of clean water as they may be contaminated with sewage or other pollutants that make them unsafe to drink, even with treatment. 
  • Chemical pollution and heavy metal contamination is not removed by boiling water or adding bleach. 
  • You can use swimming pool water for washing, but don't drink it. 
  • Visit for information on streams and waterways in your area. 


We need to make sure that people in our community have enough food to sustain them after an emergency.   
Hopefully people will have some good supplies at home, but there may be people who aren't from your community who still need food, or people who can't build up a supply of food at home due to their circumstances. 

Key things to consider:

  • Share your food with those who don’t have access to it, if you can spare it. 
  • Use foods from your refrigerator first, then those in the freezer, and finally dry goods from the pantry. 
  • What food suppliers and providers are there in your community?  Are there cooking and catering supplies? 
  • Cafes and restaurants may run out of stock quickly but may have capacity to help with cooking food for people. 
  • If you own a food and grocery store, have you thought about how you could sell your products without access to phone line or electricity? What can you do with the food in your fridges and freezers before it goes off? 
  • Does your community have a food bank? 


When water stops coming out of the tap, the sewage system won't work, but people will still need an appropriate place to go to the toilet. Consider organising long drops throughout the community and in locations close to groups who might not have the ability to organise one themselves:

  • Where are suitable locations for facilities that won’t cause problems? You don't want your long drop to contaminate any sources of drinking water, or streams. 
  • Identify and gather sanitation supplies and tools from within your community to build emergency toilets, and find people who can help dig or build toilet facilities. 
  • Wash your hands regularly – use hand sanitiser, boiled water with soap, or gloves if clean water is unavailable. 
  • When digging a long drop, dig a hole up to one metre deep and 30 to 40cm wide. After each use, cover the waste with soil or other mulch. When the hole is full to about 30cm below the surface, fill with soil and dig a new long drop. 
  • Alternatively, use a two bucket system – one for liquids and one for solid waste. Mix with sawdust. This can be used indoors and then emptied into a hole in the ground. You can find out more information about building an emergency toilet here.

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