EPODs - HB company develops disaster 'must have'

Added 5 months ago

HB company develops EPODs for disaster resilience and preparedness

The founders of sportswear brand Kooga have launched a new company focused on disaster resilience and preparedness in remote rural communities.

Lizzie McPhail, Kooga director explains the origin of EPOD, and what’s on the agenda for the company during the rest of 2023.

“Through our sportswear company we have many grass root connections with sporting organisations, sports clubs, and other groups  such as iwi and marae, right across New Zealand.”

McPhail explains that through those connections Kooga began working with vulnerable communities and schools and linking the funding agencies that support them …”so that everyone has the tools they need to be active”.

After 20 years in business Kooga has excellent supply chain connections and through Covid, this became a key driver for the business, to help its customers.

“Many people and organisations found it hard to get the Covid related products that they needed, and we began sourcing anything and everything that our customers needed, from PPE to contact screens.

“In doing that we realised that these communities were incredibly vulnerable. And they’re not very resilient when natural disasters happen.

“We started to think about how good it would be if we could just deliver a container load of equipment, and as we were talking through that, Wairoa got some funding through TPK (Te Puni Kōkiri) to build resilience.”

Wairoa had been identified as vulnerable in an emergency.

Soon Kooga through its new subsidiary EPOD was working with Te Whare Maire o Tapuwae Whanau Ora to tailor 25 EPODS to their specific requirements for Wairoa.

The EPODS (all 20 foot shipping containers) were delivered to locations all over Wairoa, mostly in January, with some being handed over the Friday before Cyclone Gabrielle hit.

McPhail says the EPODs delivered to Wairoa contained 62 different items. EPODS are designed and purpose built for immediate recovery and care, to span the time gap between a disaster hitting an area and the arrival of first responders.

“The key is having everything in the EPOD ready to go, and not to have things in boxes. That means, if it’s a chainsaw for instance, that it is fully fuelled, has the chain attached, has oil in it etc.

“The EPODS are all about helping to keep people warm, dry and safe.

“The experience of Cyclone Gabrielle has shown that EPOD is what isolated rural communities need, especially in the first few days of an emergency,” says McPhail.

Rangi Manuel of Te Whare Maire o Tapuwae Whanau Ora, says EPOD New Zealand has provided exceptional customer service.

“From concept to on-time delivery of 25 resilience emergency containers for the Wairoa district. The communities will benefit enormously from this initiative for years to follow as our area is prone to climate change and isolation in the event of a natural disaster that unfortunately eventuated recently with Cyclone Gabrielle.

Following Cyclone Gabrielle, the EPOD team has developed a next level EPOD – the extreme model – that has things like solar panels, emergency locator beacons, and communication equipment. McPhail is keen to point out that the EPOD is not just a container full of stuff, but is fully built out and designed, and is a semi-permanent product. And she’s confident there’s nothing like it, either nationally or globally.

She is also keen to spread the EPOD message to potential customers – councils, government, Civil Defence, NGOs, so that these organisations know there is a solution – and endorsers, as well as establishing the ecosystem of community stakeholders.

“Our vision is a national roll-out. We see EPOD as part of a larger system and think every isolated and vulnerable community should have one of these, and they should be funded. So we’re looking at a government contract, and also the likes of council recovery managers who are writing resilience plans now. EPOD needs to be in the resilience plans and recovery managers need to know about them so they can pitch to government for the available funding.

“We’re having a lot of conversations and are (in Kooga-speak) pushing the scrum on EPOD.

“We’ve got this idea, we’re selling it as a product and we also need to set up the system so that communities have support and assistance behind them.”

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