James is a man for an emergency

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By Mick Jensen

James Lamb is no stranger to distress and emergency.

Mr Lamb – Ashburton council’s new civil defence manager – was a senior radio officer with the Maritime Operations Centre in Wellington for 24 years before his move south.

Previously tasked with providing distress and safety communication for shipping around New Zealand and the South Pacific, he is now responsible for ensuring the council effectively co-ordinates an emergency response.

His dual purpose job also includes a safety adviser role for the council.

Mr Lamb said he was finding his feet in Ashburton after the bustle of Wellington.

His brief as the council’s emergency management officer was to assist the Canterbury Civil Defence Emergency Management Group in its responsibilities under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act.

That included building community resilience through developing the council’s operational capability and also the community’s readiness to cope with emergencies.

Community response plans had already been developed and written for Methven and Rakaia and he was working with the Mt Somers community to develop a plan.

The first workshop for that community was set for April 24, he said.

Similar plans for Mayfield and Hinds would follow and then a plan for Ashburton, which would likely split the town into two areas, north and south of the Ashburton River.

“As part of the continuous civil defence education, it is essential to engage with communities about resilience development.

“The key message I’ll be passing on is that in an emergency, everyone needs to be self-reliant and prepared to survive for at least three days without assistance.

“If we need help as a district after that time, then the regional group in Christchurch will be alerted and will step in,” said James Lamb.

Mr Lamb was raised in Dipton and joined the air force after school, training as a communications operator.

He moved to the newly built Maritime Operations Centre in Wellington in 1994 and later became a senior radio operator.

In 2001 he helped build and test systems for a coastal radio network commissioned by the Australian government.

In 2015 he was acting manger at the Maritime Operations Centre and when that role ended, he decided he did not want to return to shift work.

The job at Ashburton council caught his eye last year, he said.

“Civil defence uses an incident management model that is the same as that used by search and rescue, so there is some overlap from my old job.”

There was a quieter pace of life here in Mid Canterbury, some great amenities and the people were friendly, he said.

Mr Lamb moved here with his wife Jane, who works remotely for the Open Polytechnic, and his eight-year-old daughter, who attends Ashburton Borough School.