Red Cross’ Rural Outreach group is one of five new specialised response groups made up of Disaster Welfare and Support Team (DWST) volunteers. Rural Outreach members will be deployed during emergencies to support remote communities.

The group will deliver relief items into rural locations and check in on households that are difficult to access. Depending on the conditions, members will use four wheel drive vehicles or travel by foot to reach areas affected by hazards like snow, flooding or mud.

Volunteers will also provide psychosocial support, helping people cope with the emotional impact of a disaster.

On top of Red Cross’ disaster response training, members undertake extra training for rural conditions. Assisted by the Rural Support Trust, the group held its first training session in Canterbury recently, where volunteers covered everything from psychological first aid to using satellite phones and 4WD driving. 

Red Cross Disaster Management Officer Stephen Manson says the group will increase Red Cross’ capability to support Kiwis during emergencies.

“We know disasters can have a huge impact on farmers and rural communities. This group will be ready to respond and support our communities when it’s most needed.”

Members will also be equipped with tablets so they can record emergency needs and farm-related concerns during outreach.

The group will put their training to the test at a training exercise in Rotorua next month. Other groups, including Water Sanitation and Health, Emergency Operation Centres, Logistics and Shelter, will begin training soon.

There are 18 Disaster Welfare and Support Teams around New Zealand, ready to respond whenever an emergency happens. If you’re interested in helping your community during emergencies, find out more about joining a Red Cross Disaster Welfare and Support Teams or volunteer online.