A convoy of emergency services in four-wheel drive vehicles have traversed a path across Leslie Hills to map out an alternative evacuation route out of Hanmer Springs in preparation for a major emergency event.
Hurunui Council’s Emergency Management Officer Allan Grigg says 30 representatives from Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ), Land Search & Rescue (LandSAR), St John Ambulance and the Hanmer Springs Civil Defence Emergency Response Team (CERT) and supporters crossed the Leslie Hills in a 12-vehicle convoy recently, starting out at 5.30pm and arriving on the Leslie Hills Road about two and a half hours later.
The convoy was equipped with hand-held incident ground communication radios, Grigg said.
Grigg said the exercise was “incredibly important” in uniting the different emergency services in ensuring there were alternative routes, through private land, out of Hanmer Springs to move people out and supplies into the township during a major emergency event.
While the Hanmer Springs bridge was not expected to be impacted during a major emergency event, Grigg said, there was less certainty around the bridge approaches.
“People might be able to get over the bridge but might not be able to get to the bridge because of rock fall from the cliffs.”
The convoy was led by the Hanmer Springs CERT coordinator Graham Frith and Grigg.
“For many of the emergency services, some of whom are long-time residents of the area, it was the first time they had viewed the terrain,” Grigg said. “It gave us reassurance that we know how to get people in and out of Hanmer in an emergency if the bridge can’t be used and that personnel from the different agencies are familiarised with the route.”
Grigg said the exercise also provided an opportunity to thank the volunteers of the Hanmer Springs CERT for their service over the year, with a barbeque at a midpoint during the crossing.
“It was also a great opportunity to reinforce Civil Defence radio training.”
The group liaised with local farmers, as the route crosses private farmland to ensure everyone in the area was aware of the exercise. “Graham is still being approached by people expressing appreciation for the exercise and how it brought a focus to some of the measures you might have to take during a major emergency event,” Grigg said.
Hurunui has nine Civil Defence sectors consisting of volunteers who meet for Civil Defence preparedness and response training across the district.