Krizo Island: The Pacific’s punching bag | Sim Island, Crisis Ready

IT has been ravaged by cyclones, tsunamis, mudslides, mining tragedies, eruptions, quakes and now a pandemic. Why is this Pacific island so unlucky?

Emma [email protected]

news.com.auMay 8, 201511:16pm

KRIZO is a mountainous island nation situated exactly halfway between Australia and New Zealand.

Backpackers flock there every March to sample its pygmy pineapples, famous for their sweetness and beautiful reddish-gold flowers. But this Pacific island is the most disaster-prone country in the world, torn apart by cyclones, tsunamis, mudslides, mining disasters, volcanoes, earthquakes and pandemics. That’s because Krizo is a fictional place, devised in minute detail, from its national anthem and motto down to its first documented sighting by Captain Cook in 1770. It was created by Brisbane-based crisis and disaster consultancy Crisis Ready, to act as a “simulated sandpit” for natural and man-made disasters. Communicators, policy-makers and emergency relief workers use the island to train in handling the worst events known to humanity. Krizo’s Facebook page recently alerted its followers to a military coup, as part of a training session held in preparation for the G20. The fake crisis was reported to have triggered protests in Australia, where campaigners called for international intervention. “We’re a slightly unique company,” founder Peter Rekers told news.com.au. “The Department of Defence has a number of imaginary countries, but we’ve gone right into the depth of cultural complexity — religion, languages. We know that’s vitally important.” Mr Rekers met co-founder Rebecca Riggs when he worked in theatre, before he moved into the Navy, worked in emergency services and toured Iraq as a public affairs officer. Since they set up Crisis Ready five years ago, they have worked with state government agencies and organisations in almost every sector, from mining to childcare. They are assisted by professional writers and actors to make all scenarios as realistic as possible. “You get to experience what it’s really like to deal with a mother who’s just lost her child.” Krizo, which means “crisis” in Esperanto, has been populated for 1300 years and is deeply rooted in Melanesian culture. It has faced all kinds of disasters (detrimental events that affect the whole community) and crises (disasters where there is also outrage). It is now in the grip of an outbreak of Malsana (meaning “sick” in Esperanto), a realistic Ebola-like disease invented with the assistance of a doctor and microbiologist. Crisis Ready currently holds training days on client sites or in hired spaces, but Mr Rekers is looking at funding for a full simulation centre, complete with tin sheds and non-stop rain. He is also in talks with the University of Queensland, where he lectures, about running disaster communications courses on which students could complete 72-hour exercises in the field. Krizo may only be an imaginary place, but it has the capacity to save us all. As they say on the island: “Al-la-glar-ga gar-gala.” “We are different, yet the same.”

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