Seismic Observatory for Community Resilience – A Program to Learn from Earthquakes

In March 2014, EERI sent an interdisciplinary research team to New Zealand to study issues related to Canterbury’s recovery from the 2010-2011 earthquake sequence. The study is part of a National Science Foundation grant entitled “Seismic Observatory for Community Resilience – A Program to Learn from Earthquakes.” EERI’s internal goal for the NSF project is to evolve EERI’s Learning from Earthquakes program beyond immediate post-disaster investigations toward learning about community recovery from earthquakes. Outcomes of the project will include guidance for conducting long-term recovery reconnaissance, as well as methods for systematic data collection, archiving, and dissemination of reconnaissance findings.

Nick Hedley (M. EERI, 2014), Chris Poland (M. EERI, 1998), Scott Miles (M. EERI, 2009), Liesel Ritchie (M. EERI, 2012), and Yu Xiao (M. EERI, 2011)The aim of the New Zealand case study was to observe and understand how stakeholders in New Zealand are measuring, monitoring, and acting upon data-driven indicators of recovery after the Canterbury earthquakes. The team found that a large variety of data are being collected as part of the recovery, for example a province-wide survey of well-being, but it does not appear the available data was significantly contributing to ongoing decision making. The large volume of data is making it challenging for organizations to analyze and interpret it for decision-making. The public health sector, however, seems to be an exemplar for using data for recovery decision-making. Data describing social vulnerability, homelessness, out-migration, business recovery, and the rental market were found to be less well documented.  And while the disaster motivated unprecedented levels of data sharing within and between public and private organizations, privacy concerns and silo-ism still presented challenges. A possible role for the EERI Learning from Earthquakes program for long-term recovery reconnaissance could be the facilitation of analysis of existing data, promoting access to data that can be compared across disasters, and specific guidance on what data should be collected by researchers to be archived in the Seismic Observatory for Community Resilience.

The five-member team interviewed a wide range of decision-makers and researchers. A broad cross-section of organizations were represented, including University of Canterbury, Lincoln University, Massey University, Victoria University, University of Otago, Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, Christchurch City Council, Strong Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team, Canterbury Development Corporation, Canterbury Public Health Board, GNS, Ministry of Education, Statistics New Zealand, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Land Information New Zealand, Building Officials Institute of New Zealand, New Zealand Reserve Bank, Human Rights Commission, ResOrgs, Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce, Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism Board, and New Zealand Historical Places Trust New Zealand.

The five-member team led by Scott Miles (M. EERI, 2009), Western Washington University, included Nick Hedley (M. EERI, 2014), Simon Fraser University; Chris Poland (M. EERI, 1998), consulting engineer; Liesel Ritchie (M. EERI, 2012), Natural Hazards Center; and Yu Xiao (M. EERI, 2011), Texas A&M University. Combined expertise of the team includes sociology, geography, urban planning, information systems, and engineering.