Christchurch Earthquake

Posted by Sam Churchill on

Aftershocks have sent survivors scrambling for safety in Christchurch, the second largest city in New Zealand, after a powerful earthquake shook the city at midday, killing at least 65 people and injuring dozens more.

Google’s Person Finder application, is helping people locate relatives, while wikis are being used to share information about missing people. has a running feed from Twitter and Geonet, as well as photos and a blog. This site has graphs of earthquake data from Geonet.

ReadWriteWeb compiles and summarizes social media and mapping resources:

The primary news websites in New Zealand include NZ Herald,, TVNZ, 3 News. The latter two are the main television networks and their websites include live streaming coverage (3 News, TVNZ). Radio NZ, the national radio service, has ongoing news and a live audio stream. An alternative is Radio Live’s audio stream.

Telecommunications updates can be found at this Telecom NZ web page and on Twitter. Also, Vodafone NZ advised via its Twitter account: “Do not overload phone lines with non-emergency calls, stick to TXT and short calls if you can.”

Much of Christchurch is without essential services, with gas, power, water and phone infrastructure all affected by the 6.3-magnitude tremors. Civil Defence reported freshwater and sewage pipes had cracked and water was pouring into the streets. The 111 emergency line was down immediately after the quake but service was restored when calls were diverted to a Wellington centre.

Both cellphone and fixed line telephone services struggled to shoulder the extra load. Vodafone manager Matt East said eight sites out of 150 were down and 43 were disconnected from the power supply and running on back-up batteries.

Commando Solo, the Air Force’s airborne broadcasting center, normally beams out psychological operations in AM and FM for radio, and UHF and VHF for TV. It may be used to get internet service up and running again, says Wired Magazine.

“We have both satellite- and nonsatellite-based assets that can come in and provide access points to get people back online,” Arquilla says. “Some of it is done from ships. You could have a cyber version of pirate radio.”

What Christchurch needs is what the West Coast of the United States will need when the expected 9.0 subduction zone earthquake hits — satellite phones.

Don’t expect APCO to help.

In New Orleans, about the only thing working was satellite phones. Where are the satphones? Lightsquared’s $600 satellite phone ought to be standard issue for every city, county and state. Lightsquared says that its satellite is ready to use. So use it!

States create their own GIS-enabled information-sharing platforms. Oregon has their Virtual Emergency Network of Multnomah (VENOM) while Washington has their Washington Information Sharing Environment (WISE). Humaninet’s Maps 2.0 tool enables humanitarian organizations to post, access, share, modify, and use critical, geo-referenced information in emergency relief operations, post-emergency reconstruction, and continuing development projects using Google Maps.

When your power goes out, your cordless home landline also won’t work, so an old traditional phone, that doesn’t require AC power, ought to be available as backup.

When the big one hits, everyone will be looking for a WiFi hotspot. APCO has no plans for public WiFi. It’s not their concern. Does your local emergency management agency have a plan for public WiFi access? In Haiti, volunteers provided mapping and communications.

A self-contained emergency communications hub might be stashed in a bike trailer. I’d include a couple of 100 ah, 12 volt batteries ($200), two, 60 watt thin film solar blankets ($600), an Inmarsat or WildBlue VSAT terminal ($2000), two 4G Wireless Routers ($600) and 6-8 Meraki repeaters ($1600).

That totals $5K – cheaper than one P-25 radio.

Posted by Sam Churchill on Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011 at 10:29 am .

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