EIIP Virtual Forum Presentation — May 5, 2011

Perspectives from the Christchurch Earthquake

Timothy W. Manning
Deputy Administrator for Protection and National Preparedness
Federal Emergency Management Agency

Amy Sebring
EIIP Moderator

The following has been prepared from a transcription of the recording.The complete slide set (Adobe PDF) may be downloaded from http://www.emforum.org/vforum/FEMA/christchurch.pdffor ease of printing.

[Welcome / Introduction]

Amy Sebring: Good morning/afternoon everyone and welcome once again to EMForum.org. I am Amy Sebring and will serve as your Moderator today. We are very glad you could join us. For our newcomers, we will be providing some instructions as we go along so you can relax and participate with us.

Today’s topic is the Christchurch earthquake that struck New Zealand earlier this year. Our guest happened to be a member of a delegation that was visiting at the time, and had the opportunity to observe the impacts first-hand.

We are making a recording, which should be available later this afternoon. We are also trying something new. Due to popular demand, we are making an audio only, MP3 version of our programs, starting with the last one. You will be able to access directly from our Website, or by subscribing to a podcast now available from the iTunes Store.

The text transcript will be posted early next week. If you are not on our mailing list, you can Subscribe from our home page, and then you will get a notice and links when materials are available.

[Slide 1]

Now it is my pleasure to introduce today’s guest: Timothy W. Manning has been FEMA’s Deputy Administrator for Protection and National Preparedness for the past two years. Prior to joining FEMA, Mr. Manning served as the Secretary of the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and as Homeland Security Advisor to Governor Richardson.

As a former firefighter, emergency medical technician (EMT), rescue mountaineer, hazardous materials specialist and hydrologist, he brings almost two decades of diverse, frontline emergency management experience to the Agency.

Please do see today’s background page for further information and related links.

Welcome Tim, we are honored to have you with us. Thank you very much for taking the time to share your perspectives today. I now turn the floor over to you to start us off please.


Timothy Manning: Welcome everybody. It is good to virtually talk to you all. Over the next few minutes, I’m going to run through a brief presentation and I look forward to the conversation and answering any questions you all might have.

What I’m going to talk about today is my small part in the first week that unfolded after the Christchurch earthquake back in February. I’m going to give my perspective as a professional emergency manager who finds himself caught up as a survivor of an event and what I witnessed and saw of the events, and some take-aways and lessons learned that I think we could all consider in how we go about our business in emergency management in the U.S. and anywhere else.

I’m not going to comment on any of the response on the part of the city of Christchurch, or Canterbury or New Zealand or any of the other parties there, other than to say I witnessed some of the most dedicated and tireless professionals in any response I have ever been part of. It was an honor and privilege to be able to help in whatever little way I could.

I’ll remember the selflessness and the risk that people put themselves at constantly, forever, so it is my pleasure there. And especially the work of Mayor Parker and Prime Minister Key, and everybody there.

[Slide 2]

Start with a little bit of background on the earthquake itself—this will have some importance and bearing on the recommendations or lessons learned. On the left of this slide there is a USGS PAGER (Prompt Assessment of Global Earthquakes for Response). This is a combination of all the information and model runs that the USGS puts out pretty quickly when there is an earthquake event.

As you can see, you can see it makes some prediction to the severity of the damage. That earthquake with a magnitude of 6.3 happened just after lunch on February 22 at 12:51. That’s across the date line so a lot of the stuff you see in the U.S. had it as a different date.

It was a very shallow earthquake—3.1 miles out. There was a Mercalli of VIII. You’ll see I’ve got it parenthetically at X+ because as an aggregate across the city, it was probably a VIII, but there were areas well in exceedance of that in the Mercalli scale.

Some tsunamis generated on the lakes. These are some numbers from a month or so ago with 166 confirmed dead with another 200 missing at the time, and over 2,000 injured. I know those numbers have been updated.

[Slide 3]

New Zealand is at the border of the Australian plate and the Pacific Plate, around the Ring of Fire. Most of you are probably familiar with the global geotectonic structure of the earth and why things happen where they happen. Earthquakes can happen anywhere in the world. They happen mid-plate—severe earthquakes happen mid-plate from time to time as well, but they are very common along the plate boundaries.

Here at the boundary of the boundary at the Australian and Pacific plates we have a subduction zone boundary that will bear in and come to be part of this in a little while. You’ll see also the subduction of the Pacific plate into the Eurasian plate is where we see damage from the Tokyo earthquake as well.

If any of my seismological colleagues on the call, I‘ll offer my apologies as a plain geologist. It offers me the ability to pronounce many of the words correctly, but often not in the way a seismologist would appreciate.

[Slide 4]

For context where Christchurch, New Zealand lies on the South Island of New Zealand, at the top of the South Island you’ll see the Cook Straits, across from Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, where most seismologist, geologists, and emergency managers assumed a catastrophic earthquake would occur.

[Slide 5]

Here is a view of Christchurch itself. The epicenter of this particular quake was just below Lyttelton in a suburb there—you’ll see it at the bottom of the land mass in the bay on the north end of that bay. From downtown Christchurch to Lyttelton is only about a 20 minute drive, to give you an idea of distances.

[Slide 6]

One last throw to the geologists—this particular earthquake was a strike-slip fault with an oblique reverse thrust movement, which means not a simple movement of side to side or up and down, but a transverse movement—down and off to the side. It was a moment magnitude of 6.3, but an important thing—peak ground acceleration in the central business at 1.8 g, and the epicenter of 2.2g.

This particular earthquake, while it had only a moment magnitude of 6.3, had such high ground acceleration—there was so much shaking involved, it was well in exceedance of anything anybody expected here. Up until this earthquake, this PGA hadn’t been recorded anywhere else on earth.

Up until a week later, this was the largest peak ground acceleration ever measured anywhere on earth, when it was superseded by the Sendai earthquake in Japan, which was .9g.

[Slide 7]

If anyone wants to take a close look at this, this is a quick glance at some of the larger earthquakes. You’ll see the 2011 Christchurch earthquake at 2.2g at 6.3 magnitude. You look down a little bit further at the 2010 Canterbury earthquake which was in September—it was a 7.1. There was much more energy released as a moment magnitude scale, but down at 1.26g.

Around the world most earthquake building codes and planning criteria are based around .5g, which are statistically the most likely and most common earthquake. The Haiti earthquake, with 300,000 dead, only had a peak ground acceleration of .5g.

The Kobe earthquake which everyone is familiar with was .8g. The Northridge earthquake was a bit higher in 1994—1.7g. All of that pales when you get up to 2.2g.

[Slide 8]

One of reasons for so much of the damage that seemed well in exceedance of any of the damage that occurred, or certainly in the number of lives lost, what on the surface looked like a much bigger earthquake back in the September prior—this is a lucky shot somebody took on a hillside between Lyttelton and downtown Christchurch at the moment of the quake. This is the dust rising from downtown.

[Slide 9]

So there is the background. Now I mentioned I happened to be in Christchurch. I was there on behalf of Secretary Napolitano and the administration as part of the U.S. and New Zealand partnership forum discussing a number of issues—global trade security, homeland security issues, as well as some emergency preparedness.

The day before I had had a meeting with Mayor Parker and his people on their experiences with the September 7.1 earthquake which fortunately happened early in the morning while most people were at home and there were no deaths as the result of that earthquake.

That day, February 22, the meeting had wrapped up. I was at the airport with a number of other people. A number of people from the group were leaving to go to follow-on meetings. I was on my way to Wellington. The rest of the group was spread out around the city.

I’ll take a quick moment here as you take a look at the international terminal of the Christchurch airport and commend the building codes and the adherence to the building codes in Christchurch. There was a tragic loss of life that day, but it could have been much much greater if the building hadn’t been built as strong as they are.

These are a few of the people that were at the closest point to the building after we had evacuated. This is in the moments after the main shock of that day, prior to the first major aftershocks, which as I recall was 6.0 or 5.9.

I want to draw your attention to area near the red pointer dot on the slide (white and orange features on left in background)—this is something you would have seen around Christchurch—construction and remodeling and rebuilding from the earlier earthquake. This would play larger part in the response in the next 24 to 48 hours.

[Slide 10]

Immediately after the first quake and evacuations some of the Christchurch and New Zealand, police that were assigned to the airport were listening to the radio and trying to get through. We have all experienced that in big emergencies radio traffic is completely saturated.

Unable to reach their dispatchers or colleagues, they stood up on the bumpers of their cars and yelled into the crowd if there were any doctors, nurses, firefighters, or anybody willing to go back to the Central Business District to help in response to what sounded like horrific damage.

A number of people came forward including all those construction workers. It was a scene that was replayed over and over again in the city, they grabbed their tools and tool belts and jumped in. My apologies to anybody who might be pictured in these photos—they were snapped with my Blackberry as we were going through that day. I don’t have releases from anyone, so please take a look but don’t use any of these photos.

The person in the foreground is a former Navy nurse and there were other nurses and doctors along for the ride. We commandeered a shuttle bus to the remote parking. The driver was nice enough to agree to the police to drive us back to the Central Business District.

[Slide 11]

Of course, the roads were completely jammed. Pedro, the police officer, took us all, and a woman named Wendy, who was on her first day as a rookie police officer at the airport going to her new assignment in Auckland from her home in Christchurch. Without lights or sirens on a saturated road, he ran from the airport back downtown down the middle of the road beating on car windows telling people to get out of the way.

[Slide 12]

It worked until we picked up a police escort.

[Slide 13]

You can see some of the road damages coming in as we arrived in the Central Business District. This is maybe 20-30 minutes after the main shock and we worked our way through downtown. You can see some of the damages were starting to get into the downtown area.

[Slide 14]

The Avon River runs all through Christchurch. It winds its way around. There are bridges everywhere, as you can imagine in a coastal city. Every one of the bridges was buckled and/or collapsed, making getting around the city virtually impossible. This is one example right by Hagley Park going into downtown.

[Slide 15]

We talked about the acceleration and damage in Haiti where building codes are non-existent and you can’t adhere to something that doesn’t exist. This is the Pyne Gould Guinness Corporation building—a new building, about 25 years old—completely pancaked in the quake. It was built to adhere to the building codes and designed to standard.

I’m sure there are engineering forensics that are having to figure out why and how this happened, but this was one example of a modern building that should have been able to survive a 6.3 earthquake, and obviously, not coming close. We’ll talk more about the difference between moment magnitude and acceleration in another picture.

[Slide 16]

After working with the construction workers and nurses, we went through and dropped off volunteers as we went at collapsed buildings—nurses and doctors—to help as we went through and did a hasty search of the Central Business District looking for survivors and people who needed help, and dropping off people along with the way, finally ending up at the Pyne Gould building.

There were survivors in this building calling for help and calling out on cell phones and sending text messages that they were trapped in here. The group I was with stopped here to concentrate on this building.

[Slide 17]

Another shot of the Pyne Gould Building. I’ll talk about this later as one of the lessons learned. I think we all understand in a catastrophic disaster, our resources will be saturated. I want to just draw attention to amongst the unbelievable work that was being done by the Christchurch firefighters and New Zealand police—if you take a close look at what was a six story modern building at 1:00 in the afternoon on a business day full of people. At this point I may actually be one of those dots on the ground.

This is probably about one to two hours after the main shock. You’ll see one fire ladder truck there, and one police car you can identify. That red car in the corner is the car of an off-duty police officer, and that’s it. The majority of the people you see on that building are actually by-standers and construction workers that are saving people.

I ran into Pedro again when I was leaving town a week later. He told me they were there until about 3:00 in the morning with the construction crew, and rescued 23 people from the inside the rubble that day.

It was about at this point that I connected with the embassy and a New Zealand police officer that I had been with at the forum earlier that week. We went to the command post at city hall to connect with Mayor Parker and offer what assistance we could.

[Slide 18]

Here are a couple of quick sequences of before and after shot with a nod to Google Earth, Google maps—and Street view. I was able to go back and find the spots later. Here is before.

[Slide 19]

Here is after—same block, same street. Remember this is 1:00 in the afternoon. The sidewalks were full of people going to lunch, coming back from lunch and going back to work with traffic obviously driving down the street.

[Slide 20]


[Slide 21]

And after—the same block.

[Slide 22]

The hotel, this building in the background, the Meridian, was the hotel where I was staying in actually. This view up off the frame survived with very little damage, it was modern, so it was a good study as well.

[Slide 23]

This is the same block—the restaurant I was going to have lunch in, but decided not to. This is another before shot.

[Slide 24]

Here is the after shot. You’ll see this entire building on the corner is now missing in the after shot.

[Slide 25]

This street is the main pedestrian mall of the city center, so it was full of people as well.


Another modern hotel building that did not fare as well is the Grand Chancellor Hotel. It’s about a 20-30 story building. This photo may not do it as much justice, but that is leaning at a 10-20 degree lean. It is leaning into the foreground of this photo. This was when we were walking block to block and realized this thing was about to come down on us. I took the best shot I could with the Blackberry in my hand and we moved very quickly on our way.

There were a large number of people who had broken out the windows and were flagging for help waving sheets. On the street were actually a couple of police officers with some spray paint they had found that had written in 10 foot letters on the street, "Stay where you are".

[Slide 27]

That was to keep them from doing what this guy was doing. I ran into later (this is a different building in the upper shot than the Grand Chancellor, but the scene replayed itself) somebody who was on the 27th floor of the Grand Chancellor at the time, and he told me in great detail the story of he and all the people who were trapped above.

What happened was the elevator failed and the staircase disappeared. It is on the back side, and the stairwell collapsed. They were trapped on the upper side of the building. There were frequent, every couple of minutes, 5+ aftershocks, and some even bigger. Entire buildings were coming down at this moment when this photo was taken. Just a minute after, one of these buildings was in the street.

He described how they considered taking the fire hose and try to repel down the windows, but they realized it might work in the movies, but they weren’t possibly strong enough to do that. In the end, they picked their way down as close as they could and then waited for help.

[Slide 28]

In a lot of photos you’ll see fences around places. These fences probably resulted in uncounted lives saved. There was a lot of damage from the September earthquake. I think this is part of the University of Christchurch, or Christchurch College. It had a lot of damage but had not collapsed.

Any building that got red-tagged had these fences erected around it out much further than one would expect at what would be predicted for collapse area. When the buildings did collapse, even some that weren’t damaged in the September quake, there were areas you couldn’t have been walking in.

[Slide 29]

This, on the other hand, a lot of deaths actually occurred from people being caught on the street and facades collapsing on them.

[Slide 30]

As well as buildings coming down on people who were there.

[Slide 31]

This is more of the damage.

[Slide 32]

The CTV building was another tragedy. This was another modern building that was built to code and shouldn’t have had the impact that it did. The entire thing pancaked and then burned. A number of people were trapped there for awhile. Another tragedy.

[Slide 33]

These are some examples of liquefaction. We talk about this a lot in earthquake preparedness and response, but very few people have seen it or understand what it means when it happens. If you look closely at this photo, it will look like any other flood you’ve ever seen.

The difference is that this is not a flood. It’s liquefaction. It is the ground turning liquid, boiling up through the concrete and asphalt. Essentially what you are looking at, aside from the Avon River, is actually sand liquefied at this moment (it looks like from the reflections), but rapidly turning back solid, like quicksand. Getting through the city was a challenge as you can imagine.

[Slide 34]

This is a shot of the meeting we had at the Christchurch Rugby place where they were going to have the Rugby World Cup.

[Slide 35]

There’s another after shot of liquefaction—ground turning to liquid.

[Slide 36]

There’s a dramatic example of a sink hole opening out, a car drives in, and the car doesn’t drive out. This particular photo was taken off a news site. A few were grabbed from news sites—most of them are my own, but you can find various angles of this one with an internet search.

[Slide 37]

A happy coincidence of planning—either New Zealand, Canterbury, or Christchurch—I’m not sure what scale it was, but there was a botanical garden show opening. They had erected a this very large tent facility.

On top of the earthquake, the weather that day was about 40 degree Fahrenheit and raining all day. Sheltering the thousands of people displaced from apartments, hotels, and the Central Business District, not to mention the people whose homes were destroyed, was of course the big concern.

With the earthquake happening at 1:00, and New Zealand being fairly south from the equator—darkness came quickly and it was a race to get sheltering identified and opened. This was commandeered and turned into the first of the big mass congregate shelters.

[Slide 38]

Everyone involved did a stellar job of pulling together. At one point it was identified there weren’t enough cots and blankets in New Zealand available for all the people who were displaced on that first night, although they were accounted for very quickly.

[Slide 39]

This is a shot of Lyttelton, not too far away. After the first 20 hours, I was able to find the rest of the crew from the U.S. Embassy and spent the rest of the week helping get U.S. government aid to New Zealand and the city of Christchurch, and trying to find any U.S. citizens that needed assistance. Later in the week, we ended up going to some of these outlying cities to find people who needed help.

[Slide 40]

This is the art gallery that is attached to City Hall. It is next door and a part of the same complex. They built this with great foresight, not intending to be resilient to disasters, but getting there in the process, as self-sustaining. They get their gas from the landfill piped directly into this facility. The water comes from catchment on the roof, and their electricity comes from cogeneration from that gas and other power services.

It spins the meters backward off the grid and it was the only place with power and light and briefly running water, but then the entire city’s sewer system shut down. Water could come in, but it couldn’t go out so we had to bring in facilities obviously. This is the before, at the welcome ceremony from the partnership forum.

[Slide 41]

After, the art gallery was commandeered as the city operation center. An amazing facility built almost entirely of glass—very little of it broke during the earthquake. This is another study in structural engineering that should be looked at. They didn’t lose a single pane of glass in the 7.1 in September and they were very proud of that.

There was more damage in this one. Some hanging fixtures had to be removed. That’s what this tape is about.

[Slide 42]

There were a number of people just falling in and doing what was necessary.

[Slide 43]

I said I wouldn’t comment much about how the country and city did their operations. Let me say again that the level of dedication, professionalism, and calm was like nothing I have seen. It was extremely impressive.

All of these people obviously had worked together in the September earthquake, but it was nothing like this, with this amount of damage, search and rescue, and people to be sheltered. It was handled quickly and calmly and most impressively.

[Slide 44]

The expected media started descending pretty quickly.

[Slide 45]

This is obviously a few days later, after 24-hour operations. One thing, this being a commandeered art gallery, there wasn’t the computer infrastructure that one would associate with an EOC. Everything was mostly done by telephone, cellular telephone in hand, and paper.

[Slide 46]

It goes to the requirement and need for training and understanding not just how to use a particular system, but why do you do it that way, so that when it doesn’t work, you can do it anyway.

[Slide 47]

So what are the Lessons? One of the main lessons, having been for the first couple of hours just another survivor, albeit a geologist and an emergency manager and understanding what is going on, and a day as a first responder, and a few more days observing disaster from the outside as part of a foreign delegation team—let me run through a couple of these.

I heard a few times talking to colleagues and people in New Zealand just about earthquakes—especially even in that week I heard that no one was hurt in the 7.0, then we can handle it—it’s not a big deal. Wellington is really the concern—the earthquake in Christchurch was an aberration and released all the energy and won’t be a big deal.

But the important take-away is that we can’t ever assume anything like that. In our line of work we have to presume and plan for the possibility that these things can happen and they’re not always going to be as easy as the last time. The previous earthquake being a 7.0 or 7.1depending on which reports, a lot more energy—a lot more moment magnitude—there is 33% more energy released every time you make a jump there. It is a logarithmic scale.

The distance, geology, geomorphology, and those things all matter a lot. What is probably a lot more relevant for us as emergency managers than understanding the amount of energy released in an earthquake by paying attention to the moment magnitude and/or if it’s an earlier or older solution—Richter number—is that ground acceleration or Mercalli—because they do covariate fairly well.

Ground acceleration means how fast stuff is moving, how violent the shaking is, and how much damage there is. The 6.3 was orders of magnitude more catastrophic, and more damaging than the 7.1 because that peak ground acceleration was so much higher and because the geology, the sub-surface geology is different than what we assumed and because the earthquake was shallower and a lot closer.

Those things make a lot of difference and require more attention from us than anything else. Building codes matter. I’m talking to you today because of good building codes. There are 300 or so souls lost in that earthquake, but there could have and frankly from what I saw should have been a lot more than that. That is a testament to the building codes and the adherence to building codes.

My biggest take-away is that the public are first responders. That is something I shouldn’t have needed. I know better and I think we all know better. In my time as a firefighter, and in my time on the street and in the field, I can’t recall a scene that I pulled up on that there wasn’t somebody already there trying to help.

We as a profession spend probably too much time planning for limiting spontaneous volunteers. How quickly we can set up exclusion zones—and that is all important. We cannot neglect the public. The survivors are responders. They need to be part of the response.

We here at FEMA are changing the way we plan and the way we think about our responses. The first people to render aid are the people that survived the incident and are standing right there.

I don’t have statistics for this other than what I saw in the first 24 hours and then over the next week, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the large majority of people who received aid immediately and were rescued in the first hours from the rubble, and probably lives saved from either being trapped for too long or from hypothermia were rescued by bystanders or construction workers.

The firefighters and EMS focus their expertise, their specialized equipment and specialized training on the really hard cases. One of the first doctors that left the group I was with went off to perform a field amputation on somebody that wouldn’t have been rescued otherwise. We should be planning around and focusing our effort like that and embracing the fact that the public will put their lives at risk to help each other.

The construction workers, not just the ones we brought from the airport, but the hundreds we picked up along the way and ran into around corners, they had survived in a large cases by seconds. They had literally stepped off the scaffold to get lunch as the ground started shaking and the building collapsed onto the scaffolding at an intersection we were at when we came back around.

By seconds, those guys that had been up there would not have been walking around. They would not have survived that. In the seconds after that, they went right back into the rubble—in the midst of continued aftershocks and building collapses—to try to rescue others.

Is our advice correct to not go outside? We say don’t run outside in an earthquake and generally that’s correct. I saw buildings that had collapsed on people that had they gone outside, they may have survived. I’m not saying we should change that, but we owe it to ourselves to think hard about this.

Aftershocks kill. Geologists will tell you this was an aftershock to the 7.0. Regardless, there were aftershocks to this main quake that dropped buildings down and probably killed others. We’ve seen this over and over again, yet our advice does not include any mention that after the main shock is over, the danger has not passed.

We need to be better about that as well. Like anything else in preparedness, watch for building construction and location. When you walk into a theater, look for the exit signs. When you’re getting on an airplane, count the number of seats to an exit. When you check into a hotel room, look for the stairwell. When you walk into a building in earthquake country, take a look around and see if it is unreinforced masonry. Is this a building that is safe? Where should I be getting out if it starts shaking? You will have no warning. Just be prepared.

I’ll throw props out on this again to Red Cross. At some meeting I had gotten one of those giveaways, that you always get at those meetings, and it was a paper thin LED flashlight with a magnet that you put on your refrigerator. I threw it in my briefcase and it has been there for about a year. When the power was out for a week and there was no electricity, lights, or anything else, that flashlight came in really handy. I had carried it a long time in case something happened, but in the back of my mind, "Nothing ever really does happen". But then it happened, and that was a lifesaver.

[Slide 48]

That brings me to the end of prepared remarks. I look forward to any conversation we may be having and any questions I may be able to answer. As you are queuing up your questions let me throw one last thank you to all of the men and women of Christchurch, Canterbury, the South Island, New Zealand, and all the international community that came to help. It was my honor to have seen everybody in action and have the opportunity to help in whatever little way I could.

Amy Sebring: Thank you very much Tim. That really does give us a good sense of the event. The shots were just stunning, and like you said, it is just amazing there was not more loss of life than there was. Now, to proceed to our Q&A.

[Audience Questions & Answers]

Joe Sukaskas: How did commercial communications networks like telephone and cellular fare? Does New Zealand have a priority program for emergency managers and responders similar to our Government Emergency Telecommunications Service (GETS) and Wireless Priority Service (WPS), and if so did it help?

Tim Manning: That is a great question. If they have something like GETS, I didn’t see it being used and I’m not aware of it. I’m not sure they do. That is an interesting question. Generally, it fared really well. If you noticed in the shot right after the main shock outside the airport, you see a number of people on their phones.

I knew my GETS card wouldn’t work there, and we knew the networks, if they hadn’t already collapsed, would collapse soon. I was one to help it collapse by picking it up right away to leave a message somewhere that I had survived. It was going to break on the news.

Generally, the networks held up. They brought in COWS (cells on wheels) that they never needed. It probably deserves a close look as to how it didn’t collapse and how it was able to stay up the whole time.

Like the buildings that didn’t collapse that were built to a building code that really only envisioned a .5g shake, but survived somewhere around 2g, the sound networks are a lot more resilient than we may give them credit for. That’s all I can guess.

I got a lot of fast "busies" and I had to change networks from time to time to get a more solid signal, but there really wasn’t a period of time that I couldn’t get out. Even if I couldn’t charge my phone, it generally worked.

Gary Singer: While at the Pyne Gould building, was there any shoring/bracing performed? How did the rescuers handle the aftershocks?

Tim Manning: In the first few hours, no not really. The first few hours were scrambles to throw debris out of the way and get to the people they could. It all transferred very quickly over that first 24 hours to hand it over to urban search and rescue as it arrived. There is a fairly robust USAR system in New Zealand.

The Japanese National Urban Search and Rescue Team showed up a day level. There was a Japanese language school in the CTV building. Unfortunately, I think all but one of those students were lost. It was a big national tragedy for Japan. They sent people immediately.

All the nations sent people immediately, but I think they were at a station and launched before they even called New Zealand. They were on the ground very quick. It is actually not too far of a flight.

When USAR started working and USAR does, it proceeded as you would expect. When it was the construction teams, they were largely going after the people they could get at just by moving things out of the way. There wasn’t a lot of shoring that I saw happening.

Amy Sebring: Did the U.S. send a USAR team or can you describe the kind of assistance the U.S. provided?

Tim Manning: The U.S. sent an OFDA (Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance) Team. One of our USAR system, I think it was (CA-TF2) California 2, Los Angeles County. My last official act was to go to the airport at 3:00 AM and welcome the OFDA team and the California task force and hand over the mission to them, and then I got on a plane and came home. I love those guys.

Avagene Moore: Tim, thank you for sharing your experience with us today. My question: Are you aware of any research being done in New Zealand that may help us all with some of our planning, etc?

Tim Manning: I know the American Society of Civil Engineers, I believe it is—they are the civil engineering professional society, one of the learned societies—they have people there and are studying the building performance so we can take any lessons there. I’m sure others are as well.

The University of Christchurch has an emergency management program—a college level emergency management education program—I’m sure they have plenty of lessons they are going to share at some point.

J.R. Jones: Potable water is often a concern. What are the health issues in drinking collected rainwater?

Tim Manning: That is a good question. Even though I used to do water resources for a living, it is a little out of my area of expertise now. I know across the west in New Mexico, people have done it. In that particular location, I think they do treat the water.

The whole time we were there, everyone was on bottled water and using your typical kind of disaster response. Everything was working, but there was so much infrastructure damage that the use of any infrastructure that may be working was putting too much of a strain on the system. The water was shut off essentially immediately, even though it may have still been working.

Avagene Moore: Tim, you mentioned 'lessons learned.' What do you think is the single most important lesson or take away for you from this very personal experience?

Tim Manning: The single most important take away is how we communicate risk to the public. My single most important take away as a professional emergency manager is how we go about public preparedness. By that what I mean is that we are pretty good about being consistent in our messaging. I don’t know that we are self-reflective enough as a community. I am working on that here and we are all talking about that a great deal.

Our primary preparedness message has been consistent—three days of food and water, a plan, and an emergency kit, and that’s all important. We don’t spend enough time on conveying what people need to do in the first 30 seconds to prevent getting killed.

We focus our efforts on how to not become a secondary victim or how to have a modicum of comfort in the first few days until things stabilize. We need to spend more time on our preparedness messaging meaning what to do when the ground starts shaking. If you’re near an ocean and the ground starts shaking, run—that kind of messaging. Go uphill.

If you are in tornado country and near a tornado, get to an inside room—that kind of message is probably more important than the stuff we spend a great deal of time on. It’s all important, but I think surviving the first instance is probably more important than the other.

Amy Sebring: That is a good note to wrap it up on today. We thank you very much Tim for taking the time to be with us today and share your perspectives. Also thanks to your staff, Richard Woolman and Viola Barnes for assisting with the program preparation.

Tim Manning: It is my pleasure. Thank you. They are here and we appreciate what you are doing for the community. We appreciate everybody who tuned in today to listen. Thank you for your commitment to emergency management and to all of our neighbors and our families and all the people who expect us to do our jobs well. Your commitment by sharing and listening and talking to each other does that a great service. Thank you.

[At this point the speaker agrees to additional questions.]

Viola Barnes: Did you see any different types of building materials that New Zealand used versus what is used in the United States? You mentioned the glass in one building that was still greatly in tact after the second quake there.

Tim Manning: I didn’t. The building stock was identical. Christchurch especially was a 19th century port in a kind of British colonial—it is pretty standard. Walking around Christchurch you could be anywhere in Europe or the Northeastern United States.

Hank Straub: Can you address the role social media played in getting messages out. You mentioned instances of people using text messages but did twitter like systems play a major role?

Tim Manning: Absolutely. That was a huge piece of communications—text messaging, Facebook, Twitter—all those things were used constantly. The last person to be rescued, as I recall, from a collapsed building which happened three days after the quake, had called for help and was communicating by text messaging on her phone. That’s how she was able to get out.

Nobody would have known she was there and she certainly wouldn’t have been rescued if she hadn’t been able to use, not social media so much, but that kind of communication—it was her messaging that out and that message going out on things like Twitter and Facebook and blogs that drew as much attention to it as it did. There are numerous great stories of that working.

Avagene Moore: I am interested in the Whole Community approach or concept now being emphasized. Would you say your perspective now plays into this very well?

Tim Manning: Absolutely. The whole community approach that we and Administrator Fugate and FEMA have been advocating—it didn’t come to us when we got here at FEMA, it’s something we believe in based on our long experience doing emergency management at the local and state level, working in the community and responding to disasters. It is what we’ve seen be successful, and it is what we see as a remedy to what we’ve seen that is not very successful.

What I saw in Christchurch supports all of that. It was what we talk about happening, or what we presume would happen. It unfolded before my eyes. It was a unique experience to be one of the survivors that Craig always talks about, and to be one of those spontaneous volunteers.

I’ve planned and studied for disasters like this my entire life. I’ve planned for and responded to disasters. It’s the first catastrophic disaster I’ve lived through as a survivor on the street. It reinforces everything we’ve been trying to do and say in the whole community approach to emergency management.

I’m just glad to have the opportunity to help be part of advancing what we’re doing and help protecting our public.


Amy Sebring: Excellent. Thanks again. Now we are going on to a few quick announcements.

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Once again thanks to everyone for participating today. We do enjoy your questions and comments. Have a great day everyone. We are adjourned.