Friday, July 25, 2008

But wait, there's more!

I'm not entirely sure when we last had a weekend with nice weather, but here comes another storm. It's going to cause lots of rain, and possibly flooding through much of the North Island, but Wellington is going to get more wind. Southeasterly winds gusting to 110km/h in exposed places until Sunday.

More on the incoming storm can be found on Stuff -

Thursday, July 24, 2008

We're not the only ones with bad weather

Hurricane Dolly, the second of the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season, has hit the south Texas coast, with 150km/h winds and torrential rain, causing flooding and plenty of damage.

Earthquake in Japan

A strong earthquake (~6.8 - the same size as the Gisborne quake in December) has shaken northern Japan, injuring almost 100 people, trapping hundreds in trains, and cutting power to over 6,000 homes. The Japan Meteorological Agency said there was no threat of a tsunami from the quake, which struck at 12:26am local time (3:26am NZT) and could be felt as far away as Tokyo. Today's quake follows a string of earthquakes in the same region, the first of which in mid-June killed at least 10 people.

EDIT: 3:50pm
There's been an aftershock there, at 2.27pm our time - measuring 5.0 on the Richter scale.

And the wild weather continues

Yesterday's exciting weather caused problems all over the region - huge swells, heavy rains, closed roads, derailed trains, flooding, slips, huge traffic delays. People in Levin now have to boil their water as their treatment plant was affected by flooding. Stuff has an article on it here -

And now we can expect strong southerly gales with 70km/h winds gusting to 120km/h in exposed places until about 11pm tonight. Winds that strong can damage trees, powerlines, and insecure roofs, as well as push large vehicles around on roads - so be careful out there!

EDIT: 4:50pm
Ferry sailings and some flights out of Wellington have been cancelled due to the strong winds and high seas.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What are you going to do if you can't get home?

The weather is pretty nasty today, and stormy seas are washing waves and debris onto the road, making travel along State Highway 1 between Pukerua Bay and Paekakariki quite dangerous. Police are recommending that motorists stay away from that section of Centennial Highway for a few hours until well after high tide. Stuff has an article on it here -

EDIT: 4:45pm And now they've closed SH1.

Many people who work in Porirua live up the coast. It'd be pretty darn annoying if you were planning on driving through there any time around now, but just think what it would be like if things were so bad that the road was washed out, or a slip fell and blocked both lanes! What would you do if you can't get home tonight?

Have you got somewhere you could stay? With friends or family, or on an office couch at work?

Is there someone to look after your kids? Is there a friend or neighbour, or other family member who can keep them fed and looked after until you get home? Make sure that you've informed the school if someone other than you is allowed to pick up the kids from school.

Take a few minutes to think about these things, and give your neighbour/friend a call to see if that's something they can do for you, if you ever can't get home. And don't forget to let your family know what the plan is too!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

New six-part civil defence radio series

When the Siren Goes is a new six-part radio series from Radio New Zealand National which explores our level of disaster awareness and considers the public response that would follow a major civil defence emergency.

The series features unique archival audio from Radio New Zealand Sound Archives, including remarkable recollections from a witness to the Mount Tarawera eruption of 1886, recorded 70 years after the event.

In addition to the radio broadcasts, all audio will be available on demand and as podcasts from a special section of the Radio New Zealand website. The web section will be live from the date of the first broadcast on Friday July 11, 3:30pm and features additional archival audio, visual information including photos and video clips, and a range of links to local and international web resources.

When the Siren Goes is a series of programmes produced and broadcast as a public value partnership between Radio New Zealand and the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management. Radio New Zealand is a designated lifeline utility organisation responsible for the broadcast of emergency warnings and public information in the event of a civil defence emergency.

NOTE: Apart from the sirens on the volunteer fire stations at Titahi Bay and Plimmerton, Porirua does not currently have any kind of civil defence warning sirens.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Discredited earthquake safety advice circulated in NZ

A media release from the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management from 5 June 2008 - I figured it was worth reposting here, since that email is still doing the rounds.

New Zealand agencies involved in promoting earthquake safety are concerned that advice from a source discredited overseas is being circulated by e-mail in New Zealand.

The Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management, the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering, the Earthquake Commission (EQC) and GNS Science have spoken out against the e-mail, sometimes known as the “triangle of life”. They have done so because the e-mail discourages people from taking what is usually the safest option, covering under desks, in doorways etc.

“When an earthquake starts, the best advice is still to ‘drop, cover and hold’,” the Ministry’s Director, John Hamilton said.

A link to the earthquake fact sheet (pdf) on the Ministry’s website,, can be found here. The fact sheet is the agreed New Zealand advice about what to do during an earthquake. It is based on international best practice.

We have had queries from Members of Parliament, schools, Citizens’ Advice Bureaus, media and members of the public about the misleading advice, which includes the dangerous statement that “people who get under objects, like desks or cars, are crushed”.

Mr Hamilton said that the drill practised by schoolchildren will protect people in most earthquakes. That drill is to drop, take cover under a sturdy piece of furniture, and hold on, or shelter against an interior wall away from windows, bookcases etc.

“In a severe earthquake it is absolutely vital that people respond immediately. Confusion about what to do can result in people getting seriously injured or killed,” Mr Hamilton said.

“Our advice is to identify safe places in your home, office or school before an earthquake so that when the shaking starts you can respond quickly.

An immediate response to move to the safe place can save lives. And that safe place should be within a few steps – no more than two metres – to avoid injury from flying debris.”

Just because you think someone should have done it, doesn't mean that they have

Something that's been popping up lately (I've done it twice in the past fortnight) - making 111 calls. A lot of the time, people will assume that someone has put a call through to Fire, Ambulance or Police, especially if the incident is somewhere lots of people can see it. The problems is, everyone is thinking exactly the same thing - Oh, someone will have done it already, I don't need to. And nobody makes the call!

And just because you'll see people holding cellphones, furiously pushing buttons, don't presume that means someone is making the call either. More often than not, they're texting their friends about it, or taking a picture with the built-in camera, and then texting it to all their friends.

So, for the sake of the safety of anyone who may be involved - time is often very critical - if you see something that needs to be dealt with by emergency services, pick up the phone, and dial 111. It's free (even if your phone is out of credit), and the worse thing that can happen is that you'll be told they've already received the call, thank you for calling. The consequences of not having help arrive as soon as possible could be fatal.

Things to remember when dialling 111:

The operator will ask whether you want Fire, Police or Ambulance - don't give them the story, tell them which service you need. If you aren't sure which you need, ask for the Police, and tell them what is going on, and they can organise everything else required.

For vehicle accidents where people may be injured, you'll want both the Ambulance and the Police, and maybe Fire too. The operator will put you through to the ambulance service first, and listen in to get the details to pass on to the Police and Fire.

Remain calm, and speak clearly.

Identify where the incident is. They can't help you if they can't find you! Building names, street numbers, street names, town or city - the call centre often isn't actually in your city, so they won't know which Main Road you are talking about unless you tell them! Identify the nearest intersections if you can. If you are in a rural area, things like the RAPID rural number of the nearest address, and any landmarks can be useful.

Don't forget to give them you phone number so they can call you back if they need more information. Caller ID doesn't work well if you are calling from an office phone on a PABX system for example, and some phone numbers just don't show up.

You're going to be asked a lot of questions about what is going on, but every bit of information is useful.

Stay on the phone until they tell you that you can hang up. You can also ring 111 again if things get worse, or the services haven't shown up when you expect them to.

More information on the 111 service can be found here -

I know things are tough, but please don't...

There was recently an article on Stuff ( that really made me cringe. "Simple hints to lower your food bill" by Jackie Gower - Waikato Times - Thursday, 12 June 2008.

It's essentially recommending that you completely empty your cupboards before replenishing your stocks with a trip to the supermarket, using up the food you already have before going shopping for more. It may save money in the short term, but it's not a good survival instinct!

In the event of a large-scale emergency, food is going to be in very short supply. Your average supermarket has gone to the "just-in-time" supply model. Sure, it means that everything is nice and fresh, but it also means that your supermarket will empty in just a couple of days, if it doesn't have an almost-constant stream of trucks resupplying it. And during an emergency, those trucks aren't going to be making deliveries for quite some time. You're going to have to live off of what is in your cupboards, and unfortunately, we can't guarantee that disaster day is going to happen just after shopping day.

Ideally, you should be able to feed yourself and your household for at least 14 days, from just the food in your house. This doesn't mean that you have to have a special stash of food squirrelled away under the house for the Apocalypse - unless you are very organised, that's pretty well a recipe for having a stash of expired food that isn't much good to anyone. Keep it in the pantry, where you're going to see it and eat it, and replace it.

If you don't like lentils, then there's no point having a bag languishing in the cupboard. Store food that you normally eat. Things that you usually serve up for dinner or lunch. That way the food gets used and replaced, and you don't have to worry about having a slightly rusty tin of something unidentifiable lurking in the back of the cupboard, just waiting to give someone botulism, and quite possbly tetanus when they try getting in to it. If you find you have things that you know you aren't going to eat, throw them out if they have gone past their expriy date, or put them in the donation bin at your local supermarket if they are still good.

14 days of food sounds like a lot, and it certainly is if you have to buy it all in one go! But you don't have to buy it in one go. You've already got a surprising amount of stuff in your cupboards - that's one of the points of the original article. It built up over a time. A spare tin of baked beans here, you forgot you already had a packet of pasta in the cupboard, so bought another one. No one can remember who bought the lentils. All you have to do now is deliberately extend that buffer a bit, and turn it into something useful.

The orginal article does have a good idea - only buy what you need. The amount of time I spend in the supermarket, and the amount of money I spend has been drastically reduced by simply having a list. My trick is that I have a spreadsheet which I made up, printed off, and photocopied a few times. It has all the stuff I would expect to be able to find in my cupboards and fridge. Before I go do the shopping for the week, I go through the list and cross off anything that I've already got, leaving the things that I don't have, so need to pick up. Some things get crossed off the list 50 weeks of the year - I don't buy lightbulbs very often, but that's okay, the fact that I cross it off the list means that I have two in the cupboard.

A good list of things to have in the pantry can be found here.

So, DON'T empty your cupboards before going shopping, just buy what you need to keep your cupboards full. You never know when the next emergency is going to happen, and it's not going to postpone itself until you've done the shopping!


Ah, Wellington... Earthquake-free for four days less than one day.
There was one on Wednesday afternoon (4.1), and then another on Sunday morning (3.4), and I didn't feel any of them!

If you happen to feel an earthquake, or think you felt one, check out the seismograph readings of the quake drum for South Karori. It's the local one for our area. Little quakes show up quite frequently, as can be seen by this snapshot (click on it to enlarge). The lower blip is from a 4.1 quake centred near Wanganui at 7.29am this morning, and the other one from something more local (3.5, 10km east of Picton) at 2.23am. These little things barely rate a mention, except that they happen a lot. You can't say that we don't have earthquakes!

Snapshot of South Karori quake drum from 4.15pm 21 July 2008

Quake information courtesy of

Here's the statistics for the two recent earthquakes.

NZ Standard Time: Sunday, 20 July 2008 at 8:41 am
Latitude, Longitude: 41.39°S, 174.97°E
Location: 20 km south-east of Wellington
Focal depth: 30 km
Richter magnitude: 3.4

Web page:

Felt across the Wellington region

NZ Standard Time: Wednesday, 16 July 2008 at 1:42 pm
Latitude, Longitude: 40.94°S, 174.65°E
Location: 30 km north-west of Porirua
Focal depth: 70 km
Richter magnitude: 4.1

Web page:

Potentially felt in the lower North Island and the Marlborough region.


I'm an Emergency Management Officer with Porirua City Council, and I decided that we should have a blog about emergency management stuff, so here we are temporarily.

It'll be a pretty random collection of thoughts, rants, tips, links and anything else that I happen to think of as being relevant to my field.

It's all my personal opinion, so don't go trying to infer any council policy from it. If in doubt, contact the city council.

There are a lot of posts for today, but that's because I had a few cued up elsewhere, just waiting to be published. It may not be updated everyday, or even every week - I've got work to do!