Fiji cyclone – new v-c of FNU on storm impact

In the wake of Cyclone Winston, incoming v-c Nigel Healey says he will ensure emergency plans are top-notch for natural disasters

March 5, 2016
Map of Fiji
Source: iStock

The next vice-chancellor of Fiji National University (FNU) has said that he intends to make sure that the emergency plan for natural disasters is “as good as we can make it” in the wake of Cyclone Winston.

Nigel Healey, who is currently head of the College of Business, Law and Social Sciences and pro vice-chancellor (international) at Nottingham Trent University, said that he had spoken to Fiji National’s chancellor and been reassured that the institution “largely missed the worst” of the storm, which claimed the lives of more than 40 people when it hit Fiji last month.

The university’s Ba campus, however, on the north of the main island of Viti Levu, sustained considerable damage.

“The campus will need to be closed for some weeks. And the main campuses don’t currently have power,” said Professor Healey, who starts at FNU in July. “There’s a bit of a challenge around the residential blocks because the students don’t have power.

“With the exception of that one campus, my understanding of it at the moment is that it’s just a matter of getting the power back on and everything will be up and running. But one of the things I want to do when I start is to make sure that the emergency measures plan is as good as we can make it.”

He said that although it was “clearly a bit of a shock” for everyone, he understands that these events are a “fact of life in that part of the world”. “It’s something that you live with and plan for, and take the reasonable precautions and make sure the recovery plans are in operation for the university.”

Professor Healey said that one key thing was to get computer servers up and running quickly after such an event.

“The only way you can communicate with staff and students is through the internet or phones. If you haven’t got back-up servers, or your server’s in a building that you can’t get power to, that’s when you’re really in problems, because you can’t communicate and let people know what’s going on.”

Professor Healey added that he would draw on his experiences of being a pro vice-chancellor at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand during the 2011 earthquake, which killed 185 people and reduced parts of the city of Christchurch to rubble. The University of Canterbury itself was badly hit.

“My experience in New Zealand, where we had earthquakes that closed the campus several times, including the big earthquake that had the death toll and closed the campus for three to four weeks, has been quite useful to take into another situation.

“The very big one, it took longer because we had a lot of lecture theatres that were damaged and couldn’t be used. We had to use marquees for teaching to begin with. It’s just reviewing all of that – where are your shelters, how quickly can you get back up and running?”

john.elmes@tesglobal.com

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