Archive for the ‘Canterbury Earthquake 2010’ tag
Around the 13th of March, I started posting ideas on Facebook of what I’d like to see in the recovery in Christchurch. One of my posts was the following:
New Chch: Oh, and of course a world leading research centre for natural hazards, earthquake engineering and construction, resilient organisations and communities, risk management, business continuity, crisis management, emergency management and all forms of technology to support this. We have a fair amount of this here already, but let’s tightly integrate it into a more integrated cross-platform centre.
Justin Lewis then went on to suggest in my comments that we have a purpose built Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) and Rescue Operations Centre, as well as an Urban Search and Rescue training ground (I’ve been to VA-TF1′s training centre and equipment store in Virginia, US, back in 2002 and it was fantastic). I also added in the comments that the EOC should also be able to operate as an alternative or supporting National Crisis Management Centre – in particularly for when Wellington has their large earthquake. Jon Mitchell, the Regional CDEM Manager has also been promoting similar views.
Of course, the artificial limit of 420 charaters on Facebook points some real constraints on what you can say, so my plan was always to take the time to flesh it out in more detail when time allowed. Well, I’m now taking the time to do so.
Before the earthquakes of September 4, 2010, and February 22, 2011 – Christchurch was already well advanced when it comes to research into natural hazards, engineering, social science and emergency management – and this is one of the reasons why our response to February 22 has been generally highly regarded internationally. We also had a lot of capacity and capability in operational response – for a while we held the lion’s share of NZ Response Teams, as well as being hosts to one of the three Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces (NZ USAR TF2).
To give you a little background, here are some of the ‘centres’ and organisations that have been in place in Christchurch over the years.
- The Emergency Management Training Centre – this was originally the training arm of the Canterbury Regional Council, but has progressed into its own NZQA Private Training Establishment.
- The New Zealand Centre for Advanced Engineering – an engineering and technology think-tank that has done a lot of work around natural hazards, including Engineering Lifelines, Reviews, Natural Hazard Risk Management and Communication, and Public Alerting.
- The Natural Hazards Research Centre based at the University of Canterbury – research programmes related to studies of active tectonics and earthquakes, landscape evolution modelling, land-use planning, urban vulnerability to volcanic eruptions and health risks from eruptions.
- Earthquake Engineering at the University of Canterbury College of Engineering
- Resilient Organisations – represents a synthesis of engineering disciplines and business leadership aimed at transforming NZ organisations into those that both survive major events and thrive in the aftermath.
- NZ Registered USAR Response Teams – we also have 5 of New Zealand’s 18 Registered Response Teams.
- NZ USAR Search Dog Association – of which 9 of the 11 dogs and handlers are located in Christchurch and associated with USAR TF2 (the other two are based in Auckland).
So, Christchurch and Canterbury already have a significant in-region capability across many disciplines – including operational, strategic, policy and research.
We now have the potential to build a world class centre for emergency management and related disciplines that could bring many of these disparate activities together onto a single campus. What a shining light this could be as part of long term recovery from the earthquakes, than to build a nationally and internationally recognised centre.
What would be some of the key capabilities it should have:
- Concentrated – all the facilities should be on a single physical campus to ensure close proximity and collaboration, and integrated under a single administrative structure (if possible).
- EOC – a world class Emergency Operations Centre that supports not only local and regional response, but also can act as an alternate National EOC. This facility would also be a dedicated routine facility for emergency management for Christchurch and Canterbury.
- Internationally-recognised Training Centre – there should be an operationally-focused training centre as part of the facility, that integrates not only the EMTC, but also includes full facilities to undertake not only Urban Search and Rescue, but other specialist search disciplines such as Heights/Ropes and Search Dogs. Again, there are elements of this dotted around Christchurch, such as at the Woolston Fire Station where USAR TF2 is based, but again, this should be completely integrated into this campus, and the training facilities again need to be world class. The facility needs to be capable of supporting training and exercises up to, and including, the extremely challenging 72 hour USAR exercises for Category 2 USAR technicians and engineers.
- Strategy and Policy – thinking about the big pictures issues such as humanities increasing vulnerability to risk, and the strategic and policy decisions required, that have to be managed in terms far longer that three-year political spells.
- Integrated research – currently a lot of the research programmes are not fully integrated and the researchers work out of many different departments. This could be turned on its head and the new programme could ensure that all related disciplines are working in close proximity to not only each other, but also the practitioners.
- New disciplines – such a centre should also look at expanding research and operations into new areas that have not yet been included, and leveraging on Kiwi inginuity and design excellence. Kiwi’s could being a lot to the table in terms of development of technology and IT for risk and emergency management, an area I feel that Kiwi’s are not yet pulling their weight.
- International links – any such centre must not operate in isolation, and there are many relevant forms of partnerships that could be made, including the likes of the Emergency Management Division of the Justice Institute of British Colombia, FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute, and platforms such as the United Nations Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction and Integrated Research on Disaster Risk.
We’ve been handed some lemons – let’s make some lemonade and turn Christchurch into a world class centre for emergency management and related disciplines!
Over the years I’ve had a few ideas how we could improve the gathering of intelligence for an emergency, and how this could be linked into both situation reporting and as an action tracking tool for operations and other general management tasks.
Most of this thought has been directed at how to implement it in a Sahana product, but it could conceivably be applied to any product for emergency management, or even broader business/organisation management. Aspects of this solution already exist across both Ushahidi and Sahana – but neither provide the comprehensive solution yet.
This need was also something that I saw during my involvement in Building Safety Evaluation during the Canterbury Earthquake in 2010. It is also potentially a far more robust means of managing the collection of intelligence associated with an emergency.
I’ll talk about this using a modular approach – making the assumption that different groups of users will have different types of access, to ensure the protection of submitted information (see here for a reason why).
Capturing the Information
The first module would be the Intelligence Gathering module. It is where information from other sources is collected from other sources.
In the CrisisCommons context, this might allow an anonymous volunteer to submit cut-and-paste text from a news article on a website or from a situation report. For the purpose of this concept, I’m going to ignore the copyright issue – but do want to flag that this may be an issue with the collection of information from the media where a lot of information is copyright.
For Building Safety Evaluation, this may be the unstructured reports that we received that ‘the wall on this building looks like it is about to fall on a neighbouring building’.
So this module basically allows for the entry and recording of what is mostly unstructured information – it may be from a website, a phone call, SMS, even a scribbled piece of paper that someone passes you in the EOC.
Such a system could be easily configured to allow members of the public, or crowdsourcing volunteers to enter such information without having to register or have an account – thereby keeping the barrier to collecting raw information low.
Adding Structure and Metadata
Having this information in digital form is just the start however, the next step is to get a team of trusted individuals to then review the submitted information and critique it for quality, actionability, and credibility. At they same time they would ideally try and add other metadata to the record.
Does it currently contain a freeform address? Then the reviewer would then associate an address with the record, and this would properly structure the address information. If a geocoder is available then latitude and longitude records would also be entered.
We had some issues in Christchurch whereby some addresses that were reported are not official addresses recognised by the council property system – this usually happens with ‘vanity’ address. Our Kestrel office in Kestrel has a common/vanity address of 35 Riccarton Road, but for council and utility purposes, our building is actually 39 Riccarton Road. I spent a bit of time in September, and again following the Boxing Day aftershock checking some of the incoming addresses that were provided, and then record a Council GIS identifier once we had correctly identified the address. Again, this would be another means of tagging the raw data with something that adds valuable metadata to incoming information.
Does it have a phone number? Associate a structured phone number.
What does the record refer to? Add tags from a controlled taxonomy so that the record can be filtered – e.g. if the record refers to building damage, it may be tagged with ‘building evaluation’. If it is a report of a missing person, it should be tagged with ‘missing person’.
This is perhaps the most time-consuming part, but it is also most required, as it opens up a lot more potential for actually managing and sharing the information.
Wrapping it all in Management Tools and Reporting
Now we can finally get down to the crux of what we’re trying to achieve – take raw unstructured information and provide it in a form that information systems can understand it, present it, and search it in far more valuable ways.
If we assume that all incoming information about building safety is tagged with ‘building evaluation’ then we can provide a web page that allows someone in the building safety evaluation team to review all the incoming reports that are relevant to them.
At this point we go the final step, as we start allowing people in these focused teams to start associating actions and history to the original record. You may have a small team with Build Evaluation reviewing incoming records for ‘building evaluation’ when they see it, because the address (and potentially lat/long and council identifiers), it should be trivial to see if other records have been entered that refer to the same building, or nearby buildings. Without adding this metadata previously, it would be a lot harder to automated some of this information management.
We can then link multiple records that refer to the same building – such as different reports over time, or a neighbouring property that may refer to the building.
The best part though, is when we start adding actions – for example, if an Urban Search and Rescue Team is tasked to a building, then that action (Sending a team to perform an intial rapid building assessment) can be associated to that building and the team, and of course the original record that reported it. This means that if someone enquires if anything is being done, we have the history of who was tasked where and when.
When the team returns, we can mark the action as completed – we have a record that it has been completed. Not only that, but any quick comments from the team could be added as a new record associated with that building. Likewise, any digital photos, or even scanned copies of the rapid building damage assessment forms could be attached.
Scanned forms are of course interesting, as you could scan them initially and add them to the system as images, but also flag those to be reviewed to create metadata so that the form data is now accessible via metadata – such as the building status as determined by the assessment Safe/Green, Restricted/Yellow or No Access/Red. Whilst Optical Character Recognition (OCR) could speed this process, after seeing the handwriting of engineers, I’d suggest that human review and triage of key information on the forms would get more usable information into the system sooner. And yes – the idea is of course a tablet application that digitises the information in the field and uses an Emergency Data eXchange Language (EDXL) extension to submit the information via EDXL-DE back to a server.
Of course, with all this structured metadata now wrapped around the original unstructured reports – this opens up so much potential for reporting and where appropriate sharing this information using standards such as the EDXL for achieving true information interoperability.
This is something that both Ushahidi and Sahana have been working since the response to the Haiti earthquake when we were trying to provide management tools in Sahana Eden to wrap around the crowdsourced information that was being collected by Ushahidi.
Around lunchtime on Saturday, I got in touch with our colleague Dave Brunsdon – who was currently waiting to deploy from Ohakea in Palmerston North with the Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 1 (TF1).
The next step was to figure out what was happening in terms of the building safety evaluation process in Christchurch post-quake. At that point in time, and probably to this day, there is likely no council in New Zealand that has a plan and process in place to handle assessment on the scale of this event – I’ll get some numbers together in due course, but this was well over one order of magnitude greater than previous experiences in Gisborne and Padang, Indonesia. Remember, previous use of the NZSEE guidelines was limited to just a couple of hundred assessments, the Building Evaluation team had undertaken a few thousand assessments in the same time.
One of my main reasons for sharing this experience is to allow the development of processes and information systems that can support the assessment of potentially tens, or even hundreds of thousands of building assessments. As I write this, EQC has something of the order of 150,000 claims in, and this covers only residential property.
Anyway, after a few phonecalls, we determined that we’d probably need what was left of Saturday to plan the approach for the coming days – especially as some of the people with field experience of the NZSEE guidelines were still arranging their flights down to Christchurch. Christchurch City Council folk were still getting set up in the Art Gallery, so it was probably going to be mid/late afternoon before we all got going. There were a lot of engineers in Christchurch that had previous training in the assessment process, and they were going to be turning out en masse on Sunday, and we had to have a plan in place.
We collected Dr Hyland from the airport just after 3pm, and Clark, Kristin Hoskin and myself made our way to the Gallery where we met up with the Council staff that were leading the Building Evaluation team. We spent the next hour or so getting up to speed with what had already taken place – there were incident reports in for a good 200-300 residences and properties.
At this point, there was of course a complete cordon around the inner city – the entire CBD was closed, bounded by Kilmore, Montreal, St Asaph and Madras. One of the first tasks was to come up with a strategy for Sunday to deal with the CBD first and foremost. We all quickly agreed that the focus of Sunday would be to try and perform level 1 rapid assessments of the whole CBD. Level 1 assessments are a quick exterior assessment looking for obvious safety issues, and these can be undertaken very quickly, relative to the far more detailed level 2 assessments that can easily take an hour or two, and require access and time inside a building.
We split the CBD up into 35 sectors to which we could assign the engineers and assessors – these sectors used the roads and Avon river as boundaries (I’ve got a map in Google Earth I’ll upload at some point).
A fair amount of the rest of the evening was spent claiming space in the gallery, and working on the logistical requirements – getting the forms printed, the placards that everyone is only too familiar with now printed, and everything else that was required for sending 50-100 engineers and assessors into the CBD in the morning. Certainly for the first 4-5 days, the Building Evaluation team was often times the largest team in the Gallery – we certainly managed to claim a lot of space, getting a whole gallery to ourselves.
Of course, all through this we were still suffering through not only aftershocks, but also ongoing media coverage. We had all the big wigs – Parker, Key, & Brownlee – coming and going, and what seemed like continuous interviews. I was told later that I was spotted a couple of times in the background of the TV coverage – I must say, that I think other than Saturday morning and early afternoon, I didn’t see any media coverage for the rest of the week!
One aftershock on Saturday evening was quite amusing though. I was grabbing a coffee at the time, and Bob Parker was being interviewed on TV within the Gallery. Next thing we had a good aftershock come through, looking at the GeoNet records, it was probably the 4.4 or 4.7 soon after 7pm on Saturday evening. Anyway, next I was sheltering under the doorway near the drinks with Bob Parker until the shaking stopped.
Didn’t leave the Gallery till around 11pm that night, once we were comfortable that we had everything in place for a big day tomorrow. We planned on getting back in between 7 and 730am the next morning.
The best finish to the day however, was returning home about midnight, turning the water back on at the gate, turning the mains back on, and having Internet back, as well as hot water still in the tank. I really appreciated having a hot water shower that night – really helped get a short, but good nights sleep for the long days coming up. Also managed to slept through all the aftershocks in the night
So, before I kick into writing about what we did, I need to provide a little background.
A very good friend and business partner of mine, Dave Brunsdon, has been heavily involved in earthquake engineering in New Zealand for a good 20-25 years now. I’ve had the pleasure to be mentored by him, and work alongside him with Kestrel client projects. One of his many hats is that of the Past President of the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering (NZSEE).
Over the past few years, Dave has led a combined project between the NZSEE, the Department of Building and Housing, and the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management. This has resulted in the creation of the Building Safety Evaluation in a State of Emergency: Guidelines for Territorial Authorities. To provide a brief summary here:
The NZSEE Building Safety Evaluation Guidelines provide guidance for Territorial Authority Building Control Managers to prepare for, implement and manage building structural safety evaluation activities after major earthquakes or other disaster events, and for engineers and others assisting with the process in the field. The document was produced with support from the Department of Building and Housing (DBH) and the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management (MCDEM).
The original version was a 1998 document, that had its roots in the US-based Applied Technology Council’s Postearthquake Damage and Safety Evaluation of Buildings (ATC 20) that were initially developed in 1995. Over the past five years, the NZSEE guidelines have seen a number of improvements and refinements.
On the 20th of December 2007, Gisborne, in the north-east of the North Island of New Zealand experienced a 6.8 ML earthquake that caused 1 fatality, a number of injuries, and damage a lot of structures in Gisborne, including heavily impacting the central business district. I believe this was one of the first events where the updated building safety evaluation guidelines were utilised.
Naturally there was a draft update in August 2008 incorporating learnings from Gisborne, and then a full August 2009 update.
On the 30th of September, 2009, a 7.6 Mw earthquake occurred just offshore from the Indonesian city of Padang. This earthquake caused the deaths of over 1100 people. Within a week, New Zealand had committed to sending a 10 person project team of structural engineers under the banner of the NZSEE. It was at this point I became involved at very short notice (Saturday evening, engineers departing Sunday morning) to purchase and kit out the team with suitable GPS units to be used in the assessment process. I’ll write more about this decision in another post – I recommended, and purchased 6 Garmin Oregon 550 handheld GPS units with an inbuilt 3.2MP geotagging camera.
The NZSEE team spent around 10 days in Padang initially, and during this time assessed around 200-250 structures – mostly government facilities, hospitals, schools and the like. It was during this trip that the information management issue first became apparent to the project team. Dr Clark Hyland developed a spreadsheet to capture the assessment information whilst in Indonesia, and continued development of this solution upon his return.
As a result of Padang, and indeed Chile (another NZSEE team was sent, although the Chile team was more a research team) the NZSEE guidelines were undergoing further revision in New Zealand in the months leading up to the September 4 Darfield Earthquake.
I am aware of at least two other similar building safety evaluation frameworks.
- ATC-20 – the original US framework (first edition 1989, second edition 2005). Please note that this is a paid-for framework – it currently costs USD$24.
- An Italian framework (that I need to find more links and information about)
Since I had heard about the spreadsheet used in Padang, I became interested in implementing the NZSEE framework (and indeed also being able to support ATC-20, and the Italian frameworks and others) in a Sahana product. Whilst over at the Sahana Forum held in Taiwan on 30 July, and the SahanaCamp from Saturday 31 July to Tuesday 3 July, I started playing around with an implementation in Sahana Eden. Unfortunately my programming skills, and other activities meant I was nowhere near having a working implementation ready for use immediately following the 4th of September earthquake.
Note – as per Flickr’s linking requirements, the image goes to Flickr not directly to the NZSEE website. The other links in the text do.
One question that I’ve had about building a solution for Building Safety Evaluation (BSE) is whether it should be built into an existing council system, or indeed implemented on existing council systems, or perhaps a standalone solution should be used. Clearly there are pros and cons both ways, but I’m definitely tending towards a standalone solution – at least initially. I certainly gained some insights in the 7 days that I had working within CCC’s BSE team.
There are certainly benefits to be gained from integrating a BSE into existing council systems. These include:
- Information as it is captured goes directly into the business-as-usual systems.
- Building information is tightly linked to existing council data structures e.g. building records, ids etc.
But there are problems associated with systems implemented on a per-council basis:
- It requires each and every council to build and integrate a BSE system into their existing systems – something which most don’t have the time or budget to do, especially for relatively infrequent events.
- It is harder to bring in staff from other councils to provide surge capacity for the data entry tasks (data entry is another problem I’ll get to as well) – they would be more likely to be trained in a different system that their council uses.
- As an inhouse solution would be limited by existing council IT systems – don’t underestimate some of the issues associated with getting large organisations IT systems working following a disaster of this magnitude.
I will admit to being slightly biased, but I believe a more sustainable solution is to create a free and open source software tool that can be used in a standalone manner for the first few weeks, and then council IT staff can find a means to import the information back into the council system. This would likely become easier if the BSE data was able to be implemented in a standard XML format. I’d like to see an OASIS Emergency Data eXchange Language (EDXL) extension created for representing BSE information.
Why do I think an open source source solution would be best?
- The system will be relatively infrequently used, so it is easier to justify a consortium approach to development. This will be far cheaper than multiple councils thinking about building their own bespoke solution, that probably won’t be compatible with neighbouring councils. This means multiple councils, and indeed governments worldwide may be able to contribute relatively small amounts each to build a better system than any one single organisation could build.
- Being free, it is also likely to be widely deployed, and this means that rather than just having one councils staff trained in their systems use, there are likely to be an order of magnitude more people trained in its use if it is open source. This greatly increases the ability to have surge capacity for data entry.
- An open source solution is also likely to implement open standards, whereas a bespoke council system is likely to forgo the additional cost associated with implementing a recognised data interoperability standard. This means that bespoke council BSE systems will be inherently closed, and potentially incompatible with their neighbouring councils. An open source application with open standards automatically means that neighbouring councils can either share the one system, or at least use the same software on separate instances, and use the interoperability standards to allow easy aggregation of the BSE data for reporting.
- Open source would also allow the creation of what is effectively a BSE kit in a box. A wireless hub, a handful of netbooks etc and it would be quite easy to have a portable, redeployable and standalone kit for implementing BSE without having to depend upon any existing organisational IT infrastructure.
So, for the time being, I’ve convinced myself that a standalone open source BSE application is probably preferable to councils implementing their own system in house.
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.