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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Shake Up - Part 3

As stated previously we were very lucky that things were not much worse from the Quake.

While overall the response has been pretty good I am sure that there will be some lessons learnt, and I hope that the shake up will allow some thought to be given in a number of areas:
  • The USAR TFs and RTs have been deployed in mass for the first time, and they have shown that the system works. Hopefully the Ministry Civil Defence & Emergency Management (CDEM) and the Fire Service can get together and take some leadership and sort out some real clear direction, funding and support for this initiative.
  • On a similar basis the Territorial Local Authorities (TLAs) that have Response Teams need to look hard at what they do to keep these dedicated volunteers, by making sure that they are well trained, equipped and looked after
  • The Public at large needs to wake up and take notice. The Civil Defence systems cannot look after everyone in the first few days. The messages have been out there, so why do so few have Emergency Kits, Checklists and Plans in place. Come on people "Get Ready - Get Through". How can the messages be delivered more effectively, maybe the CDEM structure needs to make more use of Social Media rather than traditional.
  • And also for the public, and the CDEM agencies, after the Quake there is a huge awareness of Emergencies and of what Volunteers have been doing, so it is a great time to recruit and train volunteers for the future. Make the most of the opportunity.
  • Many businesses also need a bit of a shake up. I have heard a few stories of businesses that will have difficulties, because they lost vital business systems and information when buildings collapsed or were demolished. Businesses need to do very careful risk analysis and have a suitable Disaster Recovery plan in place. 
  • Not entirely related to the Quake, but national and local CDEM organisations have been looking at warning systems for some time, and in general have found that the current SMS TXT options do not work effectively. There is an alternative using Cell Tower Broadcast techniques, which allows localised warning broadcasts based on the coverage area of cell sites in specific areas (such as along the coastal areas for a Tsunami warning etc) However the cellular providers will not meet the costs to implement this technology. In the USA this technology is required by law by next year to allow for warnings about Terror attacks etc. The CMAS system exists that can be used. Should the providers have to meet all of the cost, probably not, should this alerting requirement be a part of regulatory requirements similar to 111, the KiwiShare etc, probably. Again hopefully the Shake Up will allow some progress in this area.
Some links:

Friday, September 24, 2010


Recently I attended the NZCS 50th anniversary Conference and had a really great time.

It was pretty humbling to be amongst some great members of the NZ ICT community, and also to think that I have been involved with NZCS for more than half of the past 50 years.

It was fantastic to see quite a wide cross section of the ICT community come together at this event and intereact in such a great way. While there have been comments about age, gender etc in the industry the mix at the conference was pretty good.

Some of the highlights for me were the keynote presentations from the likes of Sam Morgan, Ian Taylor, Craig Nevill-Manning and Nat Torkington.

The networking with everyone, the Bar Camp/Unconference on the Saturday, and especially the Conference Dinner on the Friday night were also all a major buzz.

Another highlight of the conference was the launch of the new book: "Return to Tomorrow: 50 years of computing in New Zealand" incorporating the original "Looking back to Tomorrow" from 25 years ago as well as new material. Get yours now, they are selling fast and you don't want to miss out. Order here

Looking forward to the next conference, not sure how, but am sure it will be even better.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Shake Up - Part 2

Shake Up - Part 2

As per part 1, I believe that we were very very lucky, in fact I believe that we 'dodged a bullet' and this can be attributed to a number of factors including size, time, location.

Based on some definitions it could be said that this was not a disaster, "an exceptional event which suddenly kills or injures large numbers of people", but that is not to down play the damage and suffering that has occurred.

In saying that however I was pleasantly surprised as to how well many parts of the system and infrastructure held up and responded.

Thankfully the Civil Defence Response Teams did not have to deploy in a way that would test their training, which is primarily to rescue people after such a disaster in a mass casualty situation. However the USAR (Urban Search And Rescue) Task Force(s) and the Response Teams still activated and did a great job of helping the public through a very difficult time.

We spent most of our time taking down chimneys that were dangerous, giving some peace of mind with the ever continuing aftershocks.

It was really great to see all three of the USAR Task Forces deployed for the event, and for the local Response Teams to be working with them, even if it was in a different role than expected. It was also great to see other Response Teams from around the country called in to help, as the local teams really needed some relief.

So to all the USAR and RT teams, great job well done, and hopefully we will get more opportunities to work together in training/exercise situations rather than another real one any time soon.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Shake Up - Part 1

Part 1 - My experiences at the time of the quake and the next 24hrs.

I missed the actual 7.1 Quake as I was in Wellington at the time for an Essentials of Humanitarian Practice course by RedRNZ. However I was to be involved due to my involvement with Civil Defence, and did return home pretty much as soon as I could. At the same course were a number of others that would be involved, including two key members of the Canterbury Civil Defence Group, and it was coincidental the discussion I was having with the Manager - Canterbury Regional Emergency Management Office only hours before the Quake occurred.

I slept through the TXT from my wife, but was awoken a little late when the Civil Defence Response Team pager went off activating the team I am involved with (NZRT-11). I had to respond that I was not initially available for the activation, and I then contacted home and found that there was no real damage and everyone was ok. I tried to get onto the 'net via my Telecom CDMA Smartphone, but could not get a connection, so tried to get some sleep as there was little I could do at that time.

I got up later, not succeeding in getting much more sleep, and finished off the course I was at and packed up etc. Having found out that there wasn't much chance of getting back to Christchurch by commercial flights for a while anyway.

I did manage, thanks to helpful Air New Zealand staff, to get an earlier flight than my original booking and got into Christchurch on one of the first flights.

Flying in was a bit surreal, and could not see a lot of obvious damage, although in retrospect the "didn't look quite right" aspects of the Wigram runway were probably pretty bad breaking up of the tarmac.

That afternoon I spent unpacking, doing some clearing up at home, and preparing for the time to follow, as while we had been very lucky and there had not been any deaths, and only a very small number of injuries from the Quake, there was obviously much work to be done.