Archive for September, 2010
After checking the interior of the house and finding little damage, I actually retreated to my bed for the next hour or so and started replying to people that had been asking if I was OK, and trying to track down more information on the extent of the quake and damage. Power and water was of course out at this point, so I was limited to the very long battery life on my laptop and mobile broadband. Despite Vodafone 3G coverage being far from ideal at home, the speeds were still pretty good.
Next steps as it became light enough to see outside was to do a reccy around the outside of the house looking for external damage. Couldn’t see anything indicating damage and this was indeed a good thing.
Now it was about 0630 or so, and other than the utilities being out, everything was in pretty good order. The plan from here was to get prepped, go and check the office, and then another couple of properties of relatives/friends around Christchurch. Despite having a ready kit in the past with boots, overalls, helmet, gloves and other stuff – a mixture of using some of these items, and a fair amount of recent travel, meant they weren’t all in one place, so a little hunting was required to get them back into a bag. Water for the day was easily dealt with, as I have a wine rack at the front door, which in addition to holding wine, also stores a number of recycled plastic water bottles that are used for exercise, days-out, roadtrips, and of course, emergencies. These were chucked into the bag, along with some dark chocolate and some OneSquareMeal bars, and we were ready to go. Of course, as keen photographers, we also had cameras with plenty of batteries and cards.
The last thing that I did before leaving was to turn the water off at the street, and turn the power off at the mains switchboard. Just in case there had been damage to utilities within the house, or more damage was caused by a large aftershock when we weren’t there, then we would hopefully minimise the risk of a broken pipe and lots of water, or an electrical fire.
It didn’t take long to find notable damage to road and infrastructure, and only about 300-400 metres from the house I found the road cracked, the first signs of liquefaction (and yes, I knew about liquefaction before the earthquake) and broken pipes. After taking a few photos, and driving on, we struck more around Travis Wetlands by Timara Park – lots of cracking in the road and significant leans on some powerpoles. In addition, the liquefaction process had clearly raised the in-ground infrastructure, as the grates had noticeably raised up beyond the road surface, anywhere from 50 to 250mm.
At this point we decided to pretty much drive straight on to the office. On the way, we saw the first evidence of fallen chimneys, collapsed block fences, and on Cranford Street the first old unreinforced masonry buildings (URM) that had partially collapsed. Also drove past the Chinese Methodist Church on Papanui Road that had lost a fair bit of brickwork, and had fair-crushed a van.
Got to the office and it was in very good nick – nothing broken, but certainly evidence of the odd small item being thrown around. I grabbed the Networked Attached Storage (NAS) that acts as our fileserver and moved it to the car. Just in case. Sure, I had backups, but if needed to run from another location for a while, it is just easier to plug the NAS in.
From there it was onto a couple of other properties for a quick walk-around and checking the utilities and make sure everything was safe. Which they were.
The second place did have two brick chimneys, and both of these had fallen, and one had significantly damaged two cars – one of which was later written off. However, all the utilities were working, and we had power, phone, water, and Internet via wifi. So for the next couple of hours we camped out there getting more information about the quake as it came to hand, and starting making some phonecalls to colleagues to let them know we were OK, and to see what we could do to help respond.
Yep – it has taken a M7.1 earthquake for me to awaken my blog. I’ve been meaning to starting writing again for some time, but after having been through a bit the past week, I figured that now was a good time to upgrade the software, dust off the spam filter, and start writing again.
I’m probably going to have a pile to say over the coming weeks as I try to capture what I experienced and learnt. In the meantime, I want to start with the main quake, and my immediate response.
I want to preface this by saying, in case you haven’t taken the hints by some of the words in the tag cloud to the side, that I am an emergency management consultant by trade – I work in the profession that deals with disasters.
Pow, right between the eyes
Oh, how nature loves her little surprises
– Joe Walsh – A Life of Illusion
I recall being awoken by the timber in the walls creaking. I am somewhat of a heavy sleeper so I probably missed some of the early grumbles but I woke up fairly quickly. I knew it was a strongish one, as I’ve experienced a few (as we do in the Shakey Isles) including many in the 4-5.5 range, as well as the M6.7 Arthurs Pass earthquake in 1994. I didn’t immediately get in a door frame, but when my flatmate turned up in the doorway to my room I quickly went to the doorway in my closet, right about the time that the shaking seemed to be intensifying.
Unlike the 1994 earthquake, this one seemed to go on for a lot longer – or at least it certainly felt like it. I know at some point I heard glass shatter. And as quickly as it arrived, it passed.
Both my friend and I are emergency managers, so we knew that it was quite a strong one, especially with some of the car alarms going in the street. At that point I didn’t think that it was a Christchurch quake, instead either a large Wellington quake, or something from the Alpine Fault that is well overdue for a large rumble anyway.
The first quick check was the light switch, and as that didn’t result in any further illumination, I went and got the torch beside my bed and had light. The next check was the water which appeared to have lost pressure. Next was the Internet, and that of course was inaccessible due to the power failure. Luckily, I had a mobile broadband card, so stuck it in the laptop and jumped online. The iPhone also proved useful.
What happened next surprised me. Within 45 minutes I’d had email enquiries from multiple friends in the US and China. So quickly responded to them letting them know that I was OK, as well as getting a quick I’m OK message up. Around the same time, we wanted more information, and that is where my American Red Cross emergency radio came in soooooo handy. As it turned out, I hadn’t charged the rechargeable batteries for a long time and they were flat. I also hadn’t put real batteries in it. It did however have a kinetic hand crank, so I was able to give it a spin, and get a few minutes radio listening before having to crank it again. Needless to say, since the evening of the 4th, it has been plugged back into mains power to charge the rechargeables!
The radio was the first real view into the outside world and what was going on, and when I first heard reports on NewsTalkZB that it was felt in Dunedin, that it was when it became clear it was a fairly sizable quake. For some reason I wasn’t able to get National Radio early on – not sure if it was my radio, or if the transmitter had actually been knocked out for a bit. I did also jump on Twitter, but didn’t get too much information there that I wasn’t already getting from other sources.
Of course during this period there were a pile of largish aftershocks, and this constant activity also reinforced that it was a rather large quake, and possibly quite a bit closer. I was quite surprised when I heard that the epicentre was around Darfield. Sometime during this first hour, I also went to Geonet to have a look at the quake drums and one look at the chart instantly told me that it was very widely felt.
Naturally, the two of us also did a quick reccy around the inside of the house and apart from a few things being knocked over, the only actual damage was the glass in a mounted photo frame that smashed near the front door during the shake.
We were very very lucky compared to many others.
(this is the first in what is likely to be a number of posts on the earthquake)
Update: I’ve updated this blog entry to become my index page for all of my post relating the the earthquakes in Canterbury and Christchurch triggered by the 4th September 2010 quake, and including the 22nd February 2011 aftershock.
This isn’t a blog post so much, rather it is going to be an index page to an increasing number of posts that I intend to make on what I learnt on both a personal and professional level during the September 4 Darfield Earthquake that hit Canterbury. I’ll be breaking these out into various groupings, and will also include links to other relevant sites.
The main intent in sharing this information, is to give some of my colleagues that develop software for emergency management, particularly within the Sahana Software Foundation, a better insight into real life experiences, so that can be factored in when developing new IT capabilities. I’m also going to be specifying capabilities based on my observations during response.
I’m a past Civil Defence volunteer (joined in 1997, mostly headquarters/incident management, but also rescue) and a director of an emergency management consultancy – Kestrel Group – since 2003. I’ve reviewed and written a number of emergency response plans for public sector and infrastructure companies, as well as the National Disaster Plan for Niue Island.
- My first hour of the Christchurch M7.1 Earthquake – my immediate reaction and through to daybreak
- So there’s been an earthquake. What next? – what I did with my Saturday morning
Building Safety Evaluation
I spent most of about 6.5 of the first 7 days (afternoon of Sat 4 through Fri 10) working in the Building Evaluation team at the CCC Emergency Operations Centre based at the Art Gallery. Previous to that, one of my colleagues, Dave Brunsdon, has been heavily involved in the Building Evaluation Guidelines for the NZ Society for Earthquake Engineering, and I’d taken quite an interest in it. Just a month before I had actually started implementing an application in Sahana Eden to provide a means of managing BSE information. Sadly this was nowhere near a workable state to be used following the 4 Sep earthquake. So, the articles I’ve written below are a means of capturing my observations in the hope that we can use these learnings to create a system before the next time a large urban centre is struck by an earthquake and needs a system to handle the thousands of assessments required.
- Some background to building safety evaluations… – a brief introduction and history to the NZSEE Building Safety Evaluations and how I became interested in it
- Saturday afternoon and evening – helping get the process set up for a big day Sunday
Geospatial and Photography
I’m a bit of a techno-geek and I love mapping, GPS and photography. In October 2009, I was involved in purchasing and preparing 6 Garmin Oregon 550 GPS units with inbuilt geotagging cameras for use in the NZSEE team that went to Padang, Indonesia to perform BSE evaluations following the earthquake there. I’m very interested in the collection of geotagged imagery following an event, so that these can easily be plotted on a map to help visualisation of damage.
Until I get around to writing more about this, some of my publicly available earthquake photos are available:
- Canterbury Earthquake 2010 – my set on Flickr. Note that the position of all the photos, including those from the Iroquois have been geotagged with GPS, allowing you to click on the map to view fairly accurately where they were taken.
Ideas and Things I’d Like to See Done
Coming soon. I learnt a lot, I have a bucket-load of takeaway points, and I think there are a lot we can build so that not only New Zealand, but other countries have excellent building safety evaluation systems in future. Not only this, but we also need to think carefully on how we can share this information with multiple systems.
- Inhouse solution versus standalone? – a quick overview of the key pros and cons of the bespoke vs open source approach to building a BSE software tool
- Christchurch Recovery – A Centre of Excellence – one idea towards rebuilding Christchurch better, to consolidate and strengthen the various emergency management and related disciplines into a single campus.