Report Is Critical of Role of Fire Service in Christchurch Quake Response in 2011

It is not often that you see a detailed and candid account of the failings of the response effort to an earthquake. Sadly, the death toll and the law suits that followed the Feb. 2011 earthquake and aftershocks in Christchurch led to this inquiry. The final report was recently released.

Thanks to Ian McLean and John Coleman for the links.

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2 Responses to Report Is Critical of Role of Fire Service in Christchurch Quake Response in 2011

  1. chubbm says:

    I am saddened that you did not note the principal finding of this review. Notwithstanding a candid review of the facts surrounding the response, the coroner was careful to note that he could not conclude that any changes would have resulted in a better outcome for the victims that survived the quake and subsequent collapse but succumbed before rescuers could reach them.

    The sad fact is that the inquiry did not take account of the turbulence surround the New Zealand Fire Service in the decade preceding the devastating earthquakes. When I arrived in 1999 to work for the service, it had already been forced through two gut-wrenching, idealogically-driven and politically-charged “restructurings” that gutted the senior executive. What was left of a management structure had too few professionals with too little support assigned too many responsibilities. To now hold these same people accountable for decisions that in many respects were taken well above their pay-grades by people with no accountability for the end-result is sad and mistaken. It will not bring anyone back from the dead, and will not foster the sort of change needed to improve readiness and response for future events.

    It seems almost gratuitous for emergency managers to clap their hands in glee as the fire service is pilloried for doing its best to support two often conflicting goals: 1) supporting the interagency coordination process (which is too often absorbed by political hand-wringing and feeding the egos of politicians and senior bureaucrats) and 2) managing line functions mobilized to satisfy the urgent needs of citizens in a reasonably expediently yet ultimately rational fashion (which is to say not letting the loudest squeaking wheel take up all the oil). All this second-guessing and after-actioning will make good people more reluctant to do the right thing in future incidents for fear of hurting someone’s feelings and ultimately suffering recriminations as a consequence.

    The evidence of such events is unfolding just north or where I write this now. In Oso, county and state officials have been as much or more concerned about how they might (or just as likely might not) find the funds to pay for the response to the mudslide. These concerns have occupied as much or more time, energy and effort as measures to identify the missing and recover those lost. In the end, no one is well-served by a system that makes perfect the enemy of good enough.

    • recoverydiva says:

      Thanks for rounding out the context, Mark.

      I did tone down the title of this posting. And I added the press summary, which makes the key point that the outcomes for the victims would not have been different.

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