Auckland Emergency Management is part of Auckland Council and works in partnership with emergency services and other organisations to ensure effective coordination of civil defence and emergency management within its area.
The last three years have been particularly challenging for the team. During the Covid-19 responses in 2020-2021 the team scaled up to include staff from other parts of Auckland Council and were part of a multi-agency initiative to provide welfare support – supporting vulnerable people to access essential goods, while also helping with welfare, operations, logistics, public information management, intelligence and planning for Managed Isolation and Quarantine facilities.
In early 2023 Auckland Emergency Management then responded to severe flooding and cyclone events that caused major disruption and damage across Auckland.
After enduring the taxing COVID-19 responses, the Auckland Emergency Management team faced the daunting task of transitioning back to business-as-usual while grappling with a backlog of pre-existing work programmes. The arduous nature of emergency management, characterised by extended shifts, high-pressure situations, and interaction with vulnerable populations, called for specialised wellbeing support.
After a long Covid-19 response period that was very taxing on the team. Recruitment for more team members had been completed, new staff had been inducted and staff were starting to catch up with pre-existing work programmes when the floods came . A lot of good work was underway at Auckland Council to support staff wellbeing, but General Manager Paul Amaral recognised the need for a wellbeing support tool that was targeted at emergency management work - which involves long shifts, working on adrenaline for prolonged periods and the challenges of working with impacted and vulnerable people. Following a presentation by Hummingly’s Elizabeth McNaughton, Paul saw that Hummingly offered the approach he was looking for, having worked in the sector themselves and bringing specialist knowledge in both emergency management and cognitive psychology.
Hummingly collaborated closely with Auckland Emergency Management to craft a tailored approach that aligned with the team's requirements. The journey commenced with "First Fridays," a series of six interactive activities designed to bolster team cohesion, performance, and wellbeing. Delivered through Hummingly's online platform, these sessions seamlessly integrated into regular team meetings.
Leadership and Wellbeing Workshop:
After the Anniversary Weekend floods and Cyclone Gabrielle in early 2023, Auckland Emergency Management recognised the need for additional staff support and engaged Hummingly to deliver a Leadership and Wellbeing in Times of Uncertainty Workshop. Its purpose was clear – empower the team to lead effectively and maintain their wellbeing regardless of the challenges they faced. This was followed up several months later with a tailored workshop on supporting staff following a long emergency response and heading into a complex recovery. This workshop was so beneficial to new staff in the team who had been required to deal with major events for the first time.
“I’ve done my share of awkward wellbeing sessions in my time in management, but Elizabeth is great.”
General Manager Paul Amaral says there has been great feedback from staff. The workshops are very interactive, provide a timely reminder that emergency management is a difficult job and the importance of staff supporting one another.
Rachel Orr (Principal Welfare Response Advisor) notes the energy created amongst staff during the First Friday sessions: “In the interactive activities it’s hard to stop them! Staff really enjoy having the space to be able to talk to each other in a more vulnerable way and create solutions.”
The large-scale emergency responses experienced this year have interrupted the delivery of some First Friday sessions, but the self-directed, online format of the tool means the sessions can be easily rescheduled for a time that suits. Feedback from staff has been overwhelmingly positive. The interactive workshops serve as a powerful reminder of the demanding nature of emergency management and the importance of mutual support.
The next steps are to take stock of where the team is at and how to leverage off the good work and learnings of the work done to-date. As the First Friday sessions near completion, Auckland Emergency Management plans to introduce Hummingly's Wellbeing Snack videos. These concise videos, encompassing narratives, scientific insights, and practical guidance, can stimulate discussions during team meetings or serve as standalone resources.
In the words of Rachel Orr, Principal Welfare Response Advisor, "Hummingly has been amazing. I'm very happy that we have these tools available to us, as the sector truly needs it."
The partnership with Hummingly is a key component in creating a resilient and well-prepared Auckland Emergency Management team. General Manager Paul Amaral anticipates that the full impact of this training will become evident during the next significant emergency response.
Auckland Emergency Management plans to assess the team's progress and leverage the valuable insights gained from their collaboration with Hummingly to continue fostering a culture of wellbeing and effective leadership within their organisation.