Innovations and lessons learned from the Canterbury earthquakes

Sandra Richardson (Centre for Postgraduate Nursing, Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Otago, Christchurch, New Zealand)
Michael Ardagh (Department of Surgery, University of Otago, Christchurch, New Zealand)

Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Publication date: 11 November 2013



The purpose of this paper is to identify innovations and lessons learned from interviews with members of the multidisciplinary healthcare team who participated in the response to the 22 February earthquake, affecting the Canterbury region of New Zealand's South Island.


Narratives from individual staff members who were associated with the Christchurch Hospital Emergency Department response were recorded and analysed. This data, together with other contextual documents have been used to identify the responses of healthcare workers to an unexpected natural disaster. Perspectives were sought from a range of individuals, including allied health professionals, social workers, Maori health workers, orderlies, medical and nursing staff.


The individual as well as the organisational responses to the earthquake events are significant, and need to be considered in relation to future planning and responses. In particular, the importance of encouraging and supporting a culture which values innovation and responsiveness was identified. While specific, practical responses to the earthquake disaster are noted, it is also important to acknowledge the implication for individuals of an acute, unanticipated event.

Research limitations/implications

The findings from this study have the potential to illuminate possible responses in other crisis situations, and to guide the development of targeted support measures in response to disaster events.


Little documentation has occurred to date relating the experiences of health care responders who are not only reacting to a natural disaster, but are also part of it. This is a unique and valuable perspective that has relevance within a number of settings.



Richardson, S. and Ardagh, M. (2013), "Innovations and lessons learned from the Canterbury earthquakes ", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 22 No. 5, pp. 405-414.

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