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Most businesses survive quake in good shape

9 August 2013

Most businesses survive quake in good shape

Wellington region businesses appear to have mostly come off lightly from the big 21 July earthquake, although one estimates damage at more than $100,000.

A survey of businesses conducted by the Wellington Employers’ Chamber of Commerce shows that of the 117 businesses that responded just 5% said they would be making an insurance claim as a result of the 6.5-strong earthquake.

Nearly two-thirds of businesses (73) said they were affected by the earthquake in some way. When asked to specify in which way they were affected, 63% (46) of these reported “staff disruption as a reason” and 52% (38) reported “workplace closure due to building inspection”.

One third (23) said they suffered damage to premises, a further 23 said they were disrupted in other ways, and just 3 said there was damage to stock.

Some 45 were prepared to put a cost on the damage. One business estimated this at $100,000, though it did not indicate if this was building or stock damage or both. Six estimated damage at between $1000 and $10,000.

In terms of business disruption, one estimated this at between $50,000 and $100,000, four between $10,000 and $50,000, and 11 up to $10,000.

When asked to elaborate on exactly how their business was impacted, they cited the following (in order of frequency):

Business was closed for a day awaiting engineer reports.
Water damage and/or broken glass and/or minor damage to building.
Meetings cancelled because could not access CBD.
Staff were unsettled and worried.
Delay in payments and or decrease in income for staff.
Policy review required for future proofing workplace.

When asked how the authorities performed in response to the earthquake, businesses were generally satisfied, with 76% saying authorities performed above average, good or excellent. Wellington City Council was singled out by many as having done a good job.

Individual comments included:

· “I liked how information was disseminated via social media and radio etc. It was clear there was a planned procedure for these situations. Obviously this would be more difficult if a more violent earthquake knocked out electricity etc, but I didn't ever feel isolated on this occasion.”

· “There appeared to be a good flow of communication, and initial action to secure premises and sites was swift. The WCC seemed to have an action plan.”

· “There should have been some form of notification as to which buildings and companies were affected, instead of guessing.”

· “I think the council did an excellent job with their responses and press releases. Any delay was due to the time pressure being put on the building engineers.”

· “More information could have been provided about building checks. There was a lot of general uncertainty about the thoroughness of the council's ‘visual’ checks.”

· “It was reassuring that Wellington was closed until it was deemed safe.”

· “Decision to cordon off the CBD early was an excellent move that saved injury and damage.”

The survey also found that, generally, businesses were reasonably well prepared for an earthquake, with just 18% saying they felt they were not sufficiently prepared.

Other findings included:

Rating of authorities’ response to the earthquake?

WCC did a good job and had a clear response: 34.9%
Social media and radio were informative: 18.6%
N/A: 11.6%
WCC needed to inform about particular building closures: 11.6%
WCC overzealous reaction: 9.3%
Radio, social media and website information was poor: 9.3%
City recovered quickly: 4.7%

Was your business sufficiently prepared for this situation? Is there anything you would have done differently?

Yes – business was prepared: 55.8%
Possibly not – could have done better: 26.1%
No – unprepared: 9%
No – unprepared. However, have since made changes: 9%

The survey was conducted between 26 July and 2 August.

Wellington Employers’ Chamber of Commerce CEO Raewyn Bleakley said the vast majority of businesses got through the earthquake unscathed and most were back on their feet quickly.

“The brilliant news was the lack of damage and injury. Apart from a few obvious places, most people were back in the city and working within a couple of days. Most businesses in the survey – 98.5% – said they had returned to business as usual by the week after the quake.

“The city clearly stood up very well. With just 5% of respondents saying they intend making an insurance claim, the value of the losses is much lower than what was reported in our survey on big June storm.”

Raewyn Bleakley said the Chamber was reviewing its procedures around emergency management in light of the quake to make sure its systems and communications were right, and was urging members to do likewise.
ends

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