Talk to your neighbours first, earthquake boss urges, 1600 hrs, Sunday 13 March 2011

National Controller John Hamilton says potentially thousands of Christchurch residents are expected to return this week. Neighbours are a great first port of call for information, he said.

“They are likely to have the best local advice on what’s happening in your street or suburb. They’ll be able to tell you if the power and water is on, and where to go for water, toilets and other essential services, as well as give you a heads up on local schools, traffic and road issues. You can also check the full page ads in the newspaper, look at the website if you have internet access, or phone the Council call centre on 941 8999.”

The first thing returning residents should check is whether their home has a red placard on it. This means it is not safe. Do not enter.

“Stay with family or friends or look for emergency accommodation through one of the Recovery Assistance Centres. You’ll need to hire a structural engineer to assess how your home can be made safe. If your house is okay, it may have a red placard because of danger from falling rocks, land slips or nearby damaged buildings.Call the Council for advice,” John Hamilton said.

Next, check that the power is safe. Damaged wires, tripped circuit breakers or blown fuses might indicate problems. Call power supplier Orion on (03) 363 9898 if in doubt.

All water for drinking and cooking needs to be boiled until further notice. Water can also be made safe by adding 1 teaspoon of household bleach per 10 litres of water, then leaving 30 minutes before drinking. If the mains supply is on, run water for a couple of minutes through an outside tap to get rid of silt and grit. This information may have been superseded.
For the latest updates, go to the
Water Services page.

Homes that have mains water should be able to flush the toilet. If leaks, blockages or overflows appear, stop using it. In this case, bury liquids (urine, vomit etc) in the garden and wrap solids (faeces) well in paper or plastic and put it in the red bin. Do not put plastic bags of human waste in portaloos. Report leaking raw sewage to the Council on (03) 941 8999. A note may have been left advising where to get a chemical toilet.

“You should take one if offered even if your toilet seems to be working as the sewage system is fragile and may not work properly if it rains,” John Hamilton said.

Empty chemical toilets daily at one of the 44 disposal tanks installed around the city. Locations are on the website.

Wash your hands immediately after dealing with any human waste.

Full information about rubbish collection, rubble and silt disposal, and welfare and support services are at or in the newspaper. The Ministry of Education ( has information about schools.

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