Monday, September 5, 2011

One year on

One year ago today I had toothache that kept me awake most of the night. One year ago today I sat in the silent, shaking dark with growning panic. One year ago today my cat was hiding under my bed, petrified. One year ago today I actually used my Civil Defence training. With the usual strangeness of time it seems both long ago and far too recent.

- Jennifer Jacobs, Christchurch

4th September 2010 - 4: 35am

For people in Canterbury the earth shifted beneath them, literally, and everything changed.

For some people it was a dry run of what was to come in February, but for others that first shake was enough to tear their lives apart. It was a miracle that no one died in that quake (the timing meant that most people were at home in their beds), but people no longer felt safe in their own homes (some were forced to abandon their houses due to the physical damage), familiar places were broken and no longer familiar, workplaces closed, sometimes forever, livelihoods lost or drastically altered.

What was "normal" became something very different to what you or I would consider to be normal. Moata's blog on Stuff has some brilliant insights on this, and the comments are enlightening, and quite touching.

Things changed for the rest of the country too. There was a certain degree of "What the..? Christchurch?! But Wellington is supposed to get the Big One..." and then the sudden realisation for many people that, yes, it could happen any where, any time. And we live in Porirua, the Wellington Fault is just over there, why aren't you prepared already?!

Sales of bottled water and water containers around the country sky-rocketed. I know some of our local stores sold out as people actually started to think about their emergency supplies, and stocked up.

The phone on my desk started ringing near-constantly with community-conscious groups asking us to come out and talk to them about preparedness, or individuals asking about the best ways to store water or create an emergency toilet. It's one of the things we're here to do, so keep those calls coming.

Some of our council staff were deployed to Canterbury to help with building inspections and repairs to the sewage, drainage & water networks. We also had staff helping at the National Crisis Management Centre coordinating the national response.

Response agencies around the country stretched their own local resources to send staff & volunteers to ease the burden of those local people who had continued to provide response services to the public, despite being just as affected as those they were helping.

Lessons were learned about things that worked in theory, but weren't so good in practice, proven systems proved themselves yet again. Some of the wrinkles were ironed out of plans which had never been fully tested, and almost everyone had some handy gem of wisdom to pass on to help others get through the next event - which unfortunately came all too soon on February 22nd.

What have you learned from Canterbury's misfortune? Is there some handy tip that friends or family in Canterbury have passed on to you? Have you taken extra steps to prepare your family as as result of the Canterbury earthquakes?

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