WEMO: Community Volunteers

Over the last year, CEISMIC has been working with the Wellington Emergency Management Office (WEMO) to document their involvement in the emergency response to the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes. When the earthquakes hit, WEMO sent a number of volunteers to Christchurch to work at the welfare centres, inspect buildings for structural damage, and to carry out searches and clear rubble in the central city.

Many of these volunteers took behind-the-scenes photographs, documenting where they slept and ate, and the work they did to support the local communities and emergency management staff, and the earthquake damage in the community. The first batch of this material is now available in CEISMIC, comprising of 776 photographs taken by 13 of WEMO’s community volunteers.

WEMO's community volunteers help the community prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies. On a day-to-day basis, these volunteers help residents prepare for emergencies by promoting preparedness within their own networks, and at local events such as festivals and community fairs. During emergencies such as the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes, community-driven volunteers are often asked to staff Emergency Welfare or Civil Defence centres, providing welfare to displaced people, gathering and distributing emergency information, registering affected people, and operating communications equipment. They also participate in exercises and events throughout the year to maintain their skills and their relationships with other volunteers and civil defence staff.

After the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, WEMO’s community volunteers travelled to Christchurch to help in the Civil Defence Response Centres. Below is a cross section of the photographs they took while undertaking this work:


Photographs from top-left: An earthquake damaged house in Christchurch; a road over the Greendale fault line which has shifted laterally; the earthquake damage to the Painted Room on Colombo Street; a car on Lichfield Street crushed by fallen masonry; campervans parked in Hagley Park for emergency management personnel; the entrance to the Civil Defence Response Centre set up in Cowles Stadium; cracks running through the driveway of a property on Glenarm Terrace; members of the Wellington Emergency Management Office working at the reception table in Cowles Stadium; people in a Civil Defence Report Centre set up in the hall of Nga Hau e Wha Marae; stretchers set up in Cowles Stadium; luggage from members of the Wellington Emergency Management Office including a teddy bear and a guitar; a map at the Civil Defence headquarters showing flooded areas and road closures.

The photographs in this collection detail not only the hard work and personal sacrifices of WEMO’s community volunteers but also the important role they played in the emergency response to the Canterbury earthquakes. With training on how to activate and run welfare centres in an emergency, they were able to provide rapid assistance to the Christchurch community, ensuring that residents were able to find food, shelter, clothing, and a comforting smile in post-quake Christchurch.

If you are interested in becoming a Civil Defence Emergency Management Volunteer for WEMO you can apply here. To volunteer in Christchurch, you can also apply here.

Creative Commons Licence
Photographs by Rebekah Rogers, Ray Whelan, Natalie Kerschner, Jim Baltaxe, Kim Wright, Nic Johns and Mark Osborne
, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial ShareAlike Licence.