Wanganui man Hector Shutte was a warden in the 1970s and says the Civil Defence set-up was great for the community.
"It was done by the public, by the people," said the 83-year old who lived in Henderson, west Auckland, at the time.
The large earthquakes felt in the region in recent weeks have prompted Mr Shutte to ask if the past system might be better.
Mr Shutte was a sector warden for Civil Defence (CD) and relayed information about his area to the CD headquarters.
Each sector was mapped in a square and on each street a person was designated to be a post warden.
The post wardens knew who lived in their street; who was disabled; who lived alone; what skills/expertise people had; and whether anyone had a boat or other equipment that might be required in the event of an emergency.
All wardens were skilled in reacting to disasters such as nuclear incidents, fires, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and flooding.
Each carried an A to Z book of instructions on dealing with every type of disaster they might face.
"This was before cellphones, and it worked very well," Mr Shutte said.
Boy Scouts and children became messengers and would ride their bikes to relay messages.
In a simple exercise, everyone in a sector was required to assemble at a school. Mr Shutte said all those involved in Civil Defence had regular exercises to test their readiness.
One evening, buses rolled into Henderson and about 100 people in the sector, dressed in their pyjamas and nighties, were driven to Mangawhai Heads where the Red Cross had set up a tent town.
The people went to checkpoints and were given clothes, food and were looked after during the exercise.
Mr Shutte said this kind of sector approach built a community and helped people to be more confident and prepared for a disaster.
He went to the Wanganui District Council but said they were not interested in the former plan.
However, the council's Civil Defence and senior emergency management officer, Matthew Smith, said its role was administrative, which facilitated emergency work in times of disaster and it provided information and support to people during an emergency.
It also educated individuals and communities about how to stay safe in an emergency and what to do to prepare for one.
Mr Smith said the "sector posts" Mr Shutte mentioned came out of the military systems of WWII.
"Since this time, there has been a drop-off in volunteers and the sector post system ceased functioning nationwide," Mr Smith said.
The CD team structure now involved working with representatives from organisations such as the police, Fire Service and ambulance, Red Cross, Neighbourhood Support and YMCA, who provided welfare volunteers.
Representatives from these groups were part of the Emergency Management Committee and the structure was determined by the Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) Act 2002.
Mr Smith said they worked together and the existing structures provided a co-ordinated response to emergency management.
The CDEM team worked closely with Neighbourhood Support and recommends households and individuals become part of their local group in order to help the people in their community during and after an emergency.
"Neighbourhood Support today uses a similar area approach to the sector post system, with local street representatives, but covers a much broader crime reduction and community co-operation role than the previous civil defence systems. In times of emergency it is a valuable organisation which Civil Defence uses to receive and send information."
Local agencies such as The New Zealand Red Cross provided additional resources to those of the emergency services.
In the district's rural areas, 11 Civil Defence radios provided emergency contact for smaller communities, and in the urban area eight radios provided back-up to normal communications.
Mr Smith said the council regularly released information in local media, on its website and on Facebook about preparing for emergencies, especially following the recent earthquake activity. This information included writing an emergency management plan.
The council also urged people to be aware of the needs of others in their community/neighbourhood who may require support, such as aged or disabled people.
The CDEM team recommended people and households contact their Neighbourhood Support Group (06 344 6746) or Red Cross if they wanted to support their local community.