Worst-case World Cup scenarios

Stadium collapse, terrorism, a snowfall causing transport mayhem, a norovirus or flu outbreak and large numbers of drunk people are just some of the scenarios considered by emergency planners in the build-up to the Rugby World Cup.

With an anticipated 85,000 extra overseas visitors during the September-October games, such planning is being carried out at local, regional and national level involving a variety of agencies. They have analysed the hazards the World Cup could involve and prepared plans around the four Rs: reaction, readiness, response and recovery.

One of those involved in the planning is Southern District Health Board emergency manager Murray Halbert, who said the health focus was on the management of intoxicated patients. While it was difficult to say how many extra patients might turn up at the Dunedin Hospital emergency department, in Christchurch it was estimated a Bledisloe Cup match there resulted in a 30% increase in ED attendances.

The board would have to ensure it had the right mix of staff on duty to be able to cope with a surge in demand on its services, and sufficient beds available. This would not mean the cancellation of elective surgery.

An information pack for visitors would include how to access health services such as general practitioners.

One of the issues with any emergency involving tourists was finding interpreters, but the SDHB seemed to be "quite well off" in that regard.

Mr Halbert said it was not always easy to get people on board, some people's responses being "It's just a game of rugby, Murray."

However, it was probably one of the biggest things for at least the next decade, he said. Without planning, it would be easy for services to be overwhelmed, increasing risks to staff and people needing help.

The Otago and Southland agencies have run exercises testing scenarios, most recently at Carisbrook a month ago.

While the police will be the lead agency for the World Cup, the district health board will also have its own emergency operations centre (EOC) set up for each of the games inDunedin and Invercargill.

Mr Halbert said staff were already "honed" as a result of the Christchurch earthquakes. He was in Christchurch the day after the February earthquake helping set up the South Island health co-ordination centre.

Southern had only just closed down its EOC from the first earthquake when it had to re-open it for the February quake.

An earthquake during the World Cup is among the scenarios that have been looked at.

Mr Halbert was confident the work in Southern, which began in October, was well advanced, and plans were "really starting to dovetail nicely" now with other agencies.

- elspeth.mclean@odt.co.nz


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