Auckland’s Emergency Management Group Plan is a wake-up call for the rest of the world. In my study of 100 urban emergency plans from the top English-speaking cities in the world, none face up to lack of preparedness the way Auckland does.
Auckland’s plan notes that only about 7% of its residents are prepared for an emergency. This means go bags, first aid kits, stiffening up homes for high winds, preparing for floods, and so forth. For a city built in a volcanic field, this may seem alarmingly low, but it’s the truth. In Canada, some response officials in Ontario claim that 50% of the population is prepared, which is hard to believe.
Knowing the impact of a disaster can be a good first step to preparing for one. So Auckland’s plan also notes the economic consequences of disasters. The estimate is that a severe natural event such as a volcano could have a catastrophic economic impact. The plan notes that there could be a reduction in GDP of 47% in the city of Auckland and 14% nationally. This is double the impact of the Great Depression.
Why don’t cities in California note the potential negative impact of an earthquake? How about American cities in Tornado Alley? What about the impact of climate change on cities everywhere? What will be the cost?
No plan will ever be able to foresee every form disaster can take. Auckland’s plan rightly notes that “it is not possible to completely remove risk.” It’s important to be flexible and realistic. Auckland photo-shopped simulations of what certain emergencies might look like. This is a graphic wake-up call that will gain more attention than a prose description.
It’s difficult to recall another emergency plan that speaks of the“ emotional, social, economic and physical wellbeing of individuals and communities.” Only one or two other cities note the danger from solar winds knocking out power.
There’s always room for improvement in evacuation, shelter in place, emergency kits, and so on. But Auckland is on a better track than the vast majority of plans.