“I had one school contact me about a sink hole that had collapsed in the middle of their pedestrian crossing.”
Road safety issues were one of a myriad of problems that schools in Christchurch had to deal with in the aftermath of the February 2011 earthquake.
There to lend a helping hand were police officers such as Senior Constable Debbie Wilson, who found herself being a ‘jack-of-all-trades’.
With her usual road safety education programmes deferred, it wasn’t unusual to find Debbie serving sausages at lunchtime ‘Blue Light Bangers’ events, running urgent training sessions for new school road patrols and dealing with collapsed zebra crossings.
When schools reopened after the earthquake there were many serious road safety issues that schools called on Debbie to assist with.
“I had one school contact me about a sink hole that had collapsed in the middle of their pedestrian crossing. We got on board to help make it safe and contacted the right people to get it filled.”
Liquefaction swallowed road markings, making it difficult for children operating road patrols, and in many cases students who had trained as road patrols had left the area, leaving a gap for schools to fill.
With many businesses forced to leave the central business district and move out to the suburbs there was also a large increase in traffic volumes around schools.
“We had lots of complaints from schools about the volume and speed of traffic which they hadn’t had to deal with before,” says Debbie.
Helping to reassure shaken and often stressed school children has also been part of her job. Police education officers went into schools at lunchtime to help with sausage sizzles, play games and hand out stickers.
Debbie looked forward to resuming her regular road safety education programmes in 2012.
“We hope to put it all behind us and move forward this year. Schools had to do some extraordinary things so I’m sure they’re looking forward to it as well.”