NZ an emergency management magnet for US students

Interns clockwise from right: Edgar Rodriguez, Miranda Henry, Maria Freeman and Matthew Kimbrough

Emergency and crisis management student interns from the US and Canada reckon New Zealand has plenty to offer people looking to study in the field.

Eleven students (including one from Canada) participating in Massey University’s Disaster Risk and Emergency Management National Expedition and Internship arrived in New Zealand late June for a six week stay and a once in a lifetime experience.

Intern Edgar Rodriguez says a positive aspect of New Zealand’s emergency management approach is that as a nation we have recent experiences with large scale disasters so communities understand the importance of taking care of events now before the events take care of them.

The students travelled across the country for two weeks visiting unique ‘hazard’ landscapes and engaging with the local experts who manage disasters in regional Civil Defence and Emergency Management offices.

Some of the highlights for the students included visiting Christchurch, travelling to rural towns and regions like South Canterbury, Mt Cook and Northland, and learning about how these communities build resilience and response plans, and meeting industry professionals.

Emily Jorgensen, an emergency administration and management undergraduate at Arkansas Tech University, has enjoyed comparing her experience of emergency management planning, preparedness, and education in New Zealand with her previous experiences in the United States in “boots on the ground” opportunities.

Ms Jorgensen says she wants to take her past experiences of the United States’ model and tailor it more towards the planning approach that seems to work so well here. 

US and Canadianinterns on their New Zealand travels to check out hazard sites

Internship reality check

The second half of their trip is a four week internship based in Wellington, with placements in local and national government agencies including Wellington City Council, Fire and Emergency New Zealand, Wellington Regional Emergency Management Office, Ministry of Health and the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Ms Jorgensen and fellow students Miranda Henry and Chase Worthington are interning at Wellington City Council with the legal and risk department business continuity team and the emergency management team. Their projects include the development of a reconnaissance plan for the district, and helping to draft a cordon management plan.

Maria Freeman, a political science and international studies double major at Iowa State University, is placed with the Wellington Region Emergency Management Office (WREMO) where she is helping with website development and training.

She says WREMO is a perfect fit as her focus is on recovery, what comes after a disaster and how to move people’s lives back to normal (or a new normal) as fast as possible. Her goal is to work on international policy regarding how countries rebuild after natural, man-made, and environmental disasters.

Interns (back row from left to right): Jacob Moll, Matthew Kimbrough, Emily Jorgensen, Edgar Rodriguez, Hannah Morton, Maria Freeman, Joana Duque, Charles Daab (front row): Miranda Henry, Emma Gil, Kenneth Worthington.

NZ's volunteer culture an inspiration

Hannah Morton, an emergency administration and planning major from University of North Texas, is interning at Fire and Emergency New Zealand and is impressed with the importance New Zealand places on volunteer training.

She says a visit to the Northland Regional Council has been the trip highlight and she got to sit in on discussions about the volunteer training they offer for teenagers in the area.

Ms Morton says that volunteering is something she’s been trying to get into in her home state for a very long time.

“Depending on whom you talk to, volunteers are not necessarily a helpful resource, so it amazed me how big of a thing that is here in New Zealand”.

Massey piloted the National Expedition and Internship programme in 2014 with one course option for Agriculture and Environment students. Due to its success and strong interest from the United States market, they now have three more courses, Communication and Marketing, Creative Expression and Digital Media, and Disaster Risk and Emergency Management. 

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