Extreme weather, Road safety  |  2 Aug 2022

Christchurch City Council roading contractors worked around the clock during last week's heavy rain keeping the streets safe while most of us were warm and dry indoors.

We talked to HEB operations manager Fatemeh Ghanbari who was on the ground during last Tuesday’s major flood event and asked her what she does and what it’s like out there when the rain keeps falling. 

When did you start?

I started at 5am to make sure all of the flooding signs that needed to be stood up were there before the peak traffic flows started. We know where the flooding hot spots are, as we clear sumps and pre-set flooding signs prior to every rain event. We all usually work on Tuesdays, and we had plenty of advanced notice that the rain would get heavier from midday onwards, so it’s normal work hours for me. 

What’s it like knowing you’re going to be working in the rain for so many hours, do you get a sense of dread when you hear there’s a heavy rain warning?

It is not the greatest to work in the rain, but I don't mind it because the whole team have a passion for the job and are out there and committed to keeping the public safe. I like to be organised prior to rain events, so that the members of the team are not under pressure.

What happens when you arrive at work?

We’re all ready with wet weather gear to try to keep dry as much as possible and we do a briefing first thing in the morning. Everyone is put into teams of two to go around the network and inspect the roads for flooding and take action wherever required.  

How does the communication side of things work?

Communication on Tuesday was with Katie, she’s our contract administrator and network inspector. She was answering phone calls and responding to Customer Service Requests (tickets coming from the Council) relating to reported flooding. Depending on where the flooding was reported to be, she would call, or text the details through to the team monitoring a specific area to get the issue sorted as quickly as possible.

Can you describe what your job involves?

I get everything ready the day prior to the flooding, organise resources to clear sump tops of any debris and put traffic management gear in place, ready to be stood up if there is severe flooding and we need to close roads. We allocate teams to a dedicated area on the network to inspect flooding hotspots and respond as and when needed. I also help with post flooding inspections and organising the clean-up, sweeping and filling in potholes after each rain event.

There must be some challenges when you’re out on the frontline?

Clearing flooding around the rivers is very difficult, because we can’t really do anything about the flooding on roads if the rivers are full, as there is nowhere for the water to drain to!

Is it a rewarding job?

It is a rewarding job in the ways that we ensure members of the public are safe on our network when driving to or from work or home.