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In February one of the most intense cyclones on record caused widespread damage across the Pacific, leaving a costly path of destruction across several countries. Tropical Cyclone Gita destroyed thousands of home homes and damaged critical infrastructure before heading down to New Zealand, where it lashed Taranaki and Nelson, Tasman.
Like previous storms of its scale, Gita provided us with lessons on how people can best prepare and help lessen the impact an emergency event may have on their communities.
New Zealand Red Cross and Pacific National Societies have a close relationship, with detailed plans in place for a quick and effective response to any weather-related emergency. Water, sanitation and hygiene toolkits, first aid training, and improved logistics, mean preparedness in local communities is better than ever.
“There’s a lot of preparation that’s already been done. Relief supplies and equipment are already in place in vulnerable areas where locals, who are the first responders in any crisis, are trained to use them,” Andrew says.
Meteorologists predict an El Niño system will bring a higher risk to Vanuatu, Cook Islands, Tonga and Fiji this cyclone season, which runs from November until the end of April 2019. While a relatively normal season is predicted, meteorologists can’t rule out a Category 5 storm and expect 3-4 cyclones to be severe, some possibly reaching New Zealand.
Being good and ready before disaster hits is key to staying safe. Everyone should have an emergency plan in place and learn basic first aid skills, and it’s also important to have enough food, water and medication to last a minimum of three days. Don’t forget that your first contact and source of help is likely to be your neighbours, so it’s important to build connections within your community.
Choosing cash can make a big difference
If the worst happens this cyclone season, the best way to ensure affected communities get exactly what they need is to donate cash.
Why? Quite simply, communities recover faster when we source goods locally and use internationally recognised relief items – cash donations help that happen and every little bit helps. Sending unrequested food or goods takes time, it clogs up ports and logistics chains, and creates delays. Cash is easier to collect, transfer, distribute and account for, while also boosting the local economy.
What else can I do? There are lots of other ways to support our response efforts. You could hold a garage sale or organise a community event and donate the proceeds. Or volunteer to help collect donations in your local area. Donating good quality goods to your local Red Cross shop also helps support our year-round preparation and response activities.