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Resilience and earthquake response delved into at GPG session

Is your agency prepared for a disaster? When was the last time you tested your business continuity plan? Do you understand what to look for in a detailed seismic assessment?

These were some of the thought provoking topics that came out of last month’s knowledge sharing session on building resilience held by the Government Property Group.

MBIE’s Deputy Chief Engineer, David McGuigan and Structural Engineer, Jenni Tipler spoke about seismic ratings and the guidelines developed to help engineers perform seismic assessments of existing buildings.

David summarised the new earthquake-prone building system, which came in to effect in July 2017 noting that the National Building Standard (NBS) rating does not give complete picture of risk, it is up to the individual agency to evaluate on a building-by-building basis.

Jenni says the way a building will behave in an earthquake is influenced by its design. “If you understand the design better you can ask the right questions of your engineer,” she says.

One of the most important aspects in building performance is ductility. “A ductile structure, loaded, behaves in an elastic way until it reaches its yield point and can continue to absorb forces resulting from the earthquake actions. Ductility is a good thing - it helps protect life but it also can mean damage which can be bad for business continuity,” she says.

Building resilience was discussed on a larger scale when Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management’s Cara Gordon spoke about the draft plan to deal with the Wellington earthquake scenario.

The Wellington Earthquake National Initial Response Plan (WENIRP) has provisions in place to direct and coordinate the immediate response, until a formal response structure can be established. “The anticipated impacts of a Wellington earthquake mean we are not going to want any delays in the response” says Cara, “as communications will be limited, the WENIRP allows for a coordinated multi-agency effort that minimises double up and confusion, preventing us, for example, from ending up with all of the blankets and none of the water.”

Following the Kaikoura earthquake, a government business continuity group conducted a piece of work to look at agencies’ ability to keep the country functioning in the event of a major earthquake in Wellington.

Glenn Redstall, Manager, Business Continuity and Emergency Management, Inland Revenue says “half of agencies’ critical functions and the majority of our primary data centres are all located in Wellington.”

One agency that has recently tested their organisation’s capacity for resilience is the State Services Commission, which exercised its Business Continuity Plan (BCP) for the third time in two years.

Rachel Bruce, Deputy Commissioner, said some of their biggest learnings were to keep their plan short and succinct and regularly test it, don’t wait for an event.

These events have also highlighted how helpful other government agencies could be in times of need, “other agencies were absolutely brilliant,” says Rachel.

Read about managing buildings and building assessments

Read about preparing your business for an emergency