In the event of a disaster or emergency, don't head to the school. That's the advice from Taupō District Council emergency manager Ian Connon.

He acknowledges last month's volcanic eruption at Whakaari/White Island has prompted discussions around natural hazards such as volcanoes in the Taupō district, and how people should prepare.

"We are trying to educate people. They are responsible for themselves in a disaster or emergency situation. People need to be able to look after themselves for at least three days."

He says schools used to be the local civil defence post."

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But they are not now."

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Passionate about civil defence, the former volunteer rural fire fighter says families and individuals need a household emergency plan and emergency kit. He says people wanting help with a plan or a kit can call into their council customer service centre in Taupō, Tūrangi or Mangakino to pick up an Emergency Planning Guide.

"Do you know your neighbours? Because you are going to rely on each other to help each other out," says Ian.

Other than the obvious things like food and bedding, Ian says an emergency kit should contain important documents like passports, insurance and identification. He says documents should be stored online or in physically safe places where they can be accessed.

Places of work are also required to have an emergency plan so staff know what to do in the event of a general emergency.

In recent years Ian has headed up NZRT6 - New Zealand Response Team 6. He says there are about a dozen teams throughout the country, and NZRT6 is Taupō based. In 2018 the team attended the National Park tornado and the Kaiaua sea inundation, and also attended the Edgecumbe flood in 2017. The role of the team is to make buildings safe, help residents to clean up, and re-enter homes to retrieve personal possessions.

Ian says he is always learning, and members of the civil defence team who are also rural fire fighters are helping out in Australia. A contingent of 22 left on last week.

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"Taupō is sending our fourth rural fire fighter to help fight the Australian bush fires. Another contingent is going this week, and then we will send them pretty regularly, depending on requirements."

In the event of a disaster or emergency, Ian will be at council's Emergency Operations Centre (EOC). The role of the EOC is to monitor what's going on, make decisions with other agencies, assist police, fire or ambulance, and put messages out to the community.

"Everyone should be ready for a hazard that may happen. Whether that be an earthquake, volcanic eruption, fire or high winds."

* For further information, head to Taupō District Council's civil defence information at www.taupodc.govt.nz/community/civil-defence-and-emergency/about-civil-defence or the National Emergency Management website www.getready.govt.nz