Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Tips for preparing for the next earthquake -lessons from the Christchurch EQ

Yesterday my good friend Colin Monteath, send me a note about the Christchurch earthquake and what he experienced. Most importantly he passed on some excellent tips. Coming from a world class mountaineer and polar traveller, I strongly endorse Colin's tips.

Sunday morning....with strong aftershocks still jolting HHH and the entire city every 20 minutes...and all through last night....an eerie calm yet now with sirens & military helos flying overhead. City in total lock down/curfew last night... kaipoi too. Civil defence, police, fire boys, St John, military etc superb....and their job very much on-going now.

Colin Monteath reading a map in the Kelly Range, Arthur's Pass National Park. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Phew! That was a day...and everyone here is still sitting about quite drained in part from the whole emotional experience...and of course realizing just how lucky we all were with only a few major injuries and no deaths. Nine dying in a plane crash at Fox glacier yesterday is in sharp contrast.

That said, the whole canterbury region will be affected for many many months. We have lost/badly damaged many historic features such as old church steeples/old homes. Major building assessments going on and many will be condemned for sure. Roads, bridges and railway lines buckled. Sewage out in many places as is water supply, power back to 90%....makes you think about the basics.

We got power back about 4pm yesterday...so a flood of emails and phone calls for which many thanks.

EQ tips from Colin Monteath

A few points came to mind that may have some bearing on you....(not necessarily in order)

1. 4.30am / winter / cold-dark...(we were outside with almost nothing on...but could return eventually to dress - some got chilled...so, the need for 'instant' warm clothes near the bed, slippers/shoes important to avoid standing on broken glass.

2. Getting people out of the house....some quite traumatised/shocked. We were lucky as HHH is built on solid rock...so violent shaking not bad enough to knock us off our feet ( as it was for many others on the flat) - hence we could get outside quickly. ( At one point after the initial hit I had five women in my bed...so not all bad!!)

3. The need to immediately check neighbours...as there were cabinets, bookcases, chimneys etc down in many homes. People are more traumatized than you think...so, eventually cups of tea etc help. (basic mountain survival skills a huge help)

4. Power off so when it does come back on...the need to check all electrical outlets, fuse boxes etc. Dont use candles in case of gas leaks. Check all gas fittings. If you have gas cooking then the need to have matches handy as electrical sparkers dont work. Access to camping stoves and fuel for extended cooking/heating. Some, with garages built into the hill could not open electric doors to gain access to emergency gear.

5. Keeping headlamps beside your bed...plus a bigger LED lamp...all of which help to regain order/stabilize the situation in the dark. ( Our big lamp is the one I use on my photo/road trips...so, If I had been away, Betty would have had nothing...hence need for at least a 2nd lamp and maybe one stored downstairs)

6. Being winter our heavy drapes were shut...possibly a major help if all windows start shattering.

7. Heavy bookcases bolted to walls...in our case a major help. All loose items came flying...frighteningly,to say the least!! as we were evacuating the house. Do not have freestanding china cabinets etc. Many have kitchens totally trashed as fridges, pantries, dishes cupboards doors come open too easily

8. Check age, stability & grouting of brick or stone chimneys (again, we were lucky...) many including Carys were not.

9. Water: I have talked for ages about getting a 200 litre tank to have in the garden...but not done it. We at least have 50 x 2 litre water bottles in storage in two locations. Our water pipes are very old so it would not take much to cut water for weeks. We now have water again...but have to boil it as it is possibly contaminated by sewage.

10. Cannot use our toilets...so dug toilet pit in garden.

11. We do have some spare food in our mountain gear room...but I need to get more. How long can any of us survive without a 'supermarket'?? ( Some supermarkets operational...others trashed)

12. During communal meal of venison stew ( thanks Wayne for your fiordland deer in rapidly thawing deepfreeze) it was good to have extended family here for a meal as everyone was tired/drained (Carys had to work all day taking pictures for The Press and I went out to take some as well with Richard who took footage for CTV.) Three times during the meal we had to dive under the table...a nice way to meet and talk with grand-children who certainly learned the drill yesterday).

13. Make sure racks of red wine in basement are secure! ( Just kidding...but in our case with a lot of heavy boxes of postcards and books...they need to be stored properly to avoid blocking exits etc

14. Hot water cylinder needs strapping to ensure stability. Header tank in roof needs to be secure to avoid crashing through ceiling/tipping over

Still smiling....Colin

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