Suppliers Support New Zealand Earthquake Recovery Efforts
March 07, 2011
Photo courtesy MiMOMax
On 22 February, a 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck Christchurch, New Zealand, the country’s second largest city. The damage is said to be far worse than after the 7.1-magnitude earthquake on 4 September 2010. News reports claim the death toll is currently at more than 100, and Christchurch Police estimate the final toll could be as high as 240. The earthquake is the country’s deadliest natural disaster in 80 years. Tait Electronics and MiMOMax Wireless, both mission-critical suppliers based in Christchurch, have provided support in recovery efforts.
The Tait campus facilities, which are near the airport rather than the central city district, withstood the earthquake. According to Frank Owen, managing director, because the Tait business was not impacted, it freed the company to respond to its customers’ — public safety, utilities and urban transport providers — needs. Tait staff provided radios and other equipment to mission-critical agencies.
“The team did a fantastic job assembling radios, which the New Zealand Police needed to give to visiting police and rescue teams from overseas,” said Dean Mischewski, product engineering manager. “It was a huge team effort to pack all the belt clips, holsters and intrinsically safe (IS) radios to ship across town.”
The Sao Paulo Police in Brazil also gave permission for radios intended to be shipped to Brazil to be redirected to be used by rescue teams in Christchurch.
According to Tait officials, interoperability with U.S. and Australian rescue teams was paramount. “Immediately after the quake, [New Zealand Police] were using key fill devices to program Tait and Motorola portables of some visiting police,” said Tait Operations Manager Christine Lewis. “Because the New South Wales Police from Australia use the same digital technology, they were able to communicate with New Zealand Police using their Project 25 (P25) Tait portables with the Motorola equipment they brought from Sydney. This was interoperability really put to the test and ultimately led to a more speedy response.”
Aaron Robinson, Tait process improvement engineer, ferried batteries, multiway chargers and other equipment through the police cordon down to the civil defense headquarters in the earthquake-affected area of the city. “We were quickly able to secure and set up the kit,” Robinson said. “It took quite a time to get into town, and the officer patrolling the cordon gave me a funny look… but when he realized I was from Tait, with all the radio gear to help, I had no problems going on into the civil defense headquarters.”
The MiMOMax premises suffered some superficial damage but were up and fully operational within a few days of the earthquake. According to Mimomax officials, the firm’s supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) communications system remained fully operational, and there was “no apparent data loss whatsoever, even during the seconds after the quake.”
After the earthquake, public access systems were overloaded and some microwave linking solutions were knocked out of alignment, but radio worked. “Radio worked when other systems failed,” said Paul Daigneault, managing director.
The day after the earthquake, MiMOMax assisted Orion Energy — a power distributor for all of rural Canterbury and Christchurch — to enhance network capacity and further deploy radios in badly affected urban substations. At the time of the earthquake, most of Christchurch residents and commercial entities lost power. Orion staff have been working around the clock to get power back up and running around the city. Many fiber-optic and wired connections within the substation were destroyed by the earthquake. “We had to pass through multiple check points guarded by the army to reach the damaged substation,” said a MiMOMax official. “It was severely affected by liquefaction, which made it challenging to enter the inside and install the radio link.”