I see red

Today I was grilled by some fantastic year 6 students at Essendon North Primary School on a whole range of topics relating to disaster preparedness. The kids were well prepared and had thought deeply about their questions. Their questions reflected a maturity that I don’t see in some adults, who fail to grasp what we deal with (inquiry based learning is sensational, it produces real thinkers and doers).

One of the questions was “What’s the hardest disaster to plan for” Without hesitation, I said earthquakes. “Why” “ Well” I thought reflecting on Wellington’s earthquake last week, and talking to people in Christchurch last year. “You get no real warning”.

At least with bushfires, cyclones, floods, storms, in theory we get warning. We know it’s a hot day, with high fire danger. WE can see a cyclone forming off the coast, and we will it away to somewhere in the Coral or Arafura Sea, and with floods, again, there is a degree of warning. There is potentially a  sense of impending doom. So, if we are prepared, we can then put our plans into action, and hopefully reduce the impacts of these events.

But, with earthquakes, there is no warning. People go about their daily business and then lives are turned upside down. I recall the live images of the Feb22 Christchurch earthquake, of the disbelief, bewilderment, the shock on people’s faces, who were just going out for lunch, or to do some banking, or shopping. Everything changes in a split second

And we don’t know when the next one is coming. If you check out the Geonet site in New Zealand, the ground is still shaking. In Christchurch, the ground shook for a year and a half after the first quake, and people were not sure, is there another big one on the way.

I think the other thing that really poignant, is the earth moves under our feet. That’s not normal. The earth, of all the elements, is the most tangible, and reliable. It doesn’t move. It’s solid. IF i walk out of my house, I expect the footpath to be there, and not move.

And it doesn’t kill you, like we know fire will, and water may. That assumption is fundamental to our existence. One of the things we talk about is the loss of trust or faith in institutions that are there to protect us (like the emergency services, governments or not for profits). But we don’t think about the loss of trust in things that are supposed to be reliable, like the earth.

If our basic assumptions are shattered, then recovery is going to be a whole lot harder. On top of that add the complete destruction of the tangible things like power, water, shelter, roads, services, businesses, and then you realise how hard earthquakes are to deal with.

So a shout for the people of both North and South Island who have to deal with this uncertainty, this one is for you. Split Enz’s I see Red. Why this one, well the line “When my baby’s walking down the street” came to mind when I thought about how we take walking down the street for granted. Oh, and of course, a great Kiwi Band.




One thought on “I see red

  1. I had a similar experience with primary school students in NZ. I was visiting with a colleague from Japan and they asked him about his experiences in the East Japan earthquake. Their questions were so insightful – clearly reflecting their own experiences of earthquake. One of them of them wanted to know if he was on his own or whether he had someone with him when the earthquake hit – identifying such a critical factor in how people experience an event.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s