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Earthquake preparation helped earlier recovery

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Essential services agencies’ disaster planning reduced damage to their assets and improved the emergency response in the devastating earthquakes of 2010 and 2011, according to a report commissioned by the New Zealand Earthquake Commission (EQC).

The report, The Value of Lifeline Risk Mitigation in Christchurch, has found that work begun in the 1990s meant essential services such as emergency telecommunications and fuel supplies for emergency vehicles were uninterrupted, while strengthening over several years reduced damage to utilities’ assets.

It says strong relationships built between public and private sector agencies also proved valuable when the earthquakes hit and personnel needed to collaborate.

Preparation meant engineers and contractors were available quickly to inspect key bridges and buildings, and although much of the emergency phone-calling system is based in Christchurch, work on a backup system meant it continued to operate because it could be re-routed to other parts of New Zealand.

The Port of Lyttelton resumed operations within days of the largest earthquakes due to strengthening work undertaken in previous years.

Electricity company Orion estimates that $NZ6 million ($4.7 million) spent on seismic strengthening since 1996 has saved more than $NZ60 million ($46.7 million) in direct asset replacement costs and repairs.