Quake education aim of project

Founder and director of Listen UP NZ Matt Hampton is a man on a mission to provide innovative...
Founder and director of Listen UP NZ Matt Hampton is a man on a mission to provide innovative mobile earthquake simulation and education experiences via a mobile earthquake simulation vehicle to New Zealanders in preparation for the ‘‘big one’’. PHOTOS: JULES CHIN/SUPPLIED
Are you and your family ready for a magnitude 8 earthquake on the Alpine Fault?

Scientific research indicates there is a 75% probability of an Alpine Fault earthquake occurring in the next 50 years, and a four-out-of-five chance that it will be a magnitude 8+ event.

Three containers, one housing a mobile earthquake simulator, are at the core of an innovation by a local man that is designed to save us from "existential threat", should that occur.

Listen UP NZ, founded and directed by local resident Matt Hampton, is a new company that is planning to provide innovative mobile earthquake simulation and education experiences.

He is a man on a mission to empower communities through preparedness and resilience when facing major earthquakes and natural disasters.

Mr Hampton says Listen UP NZ aims to build three 40ft (12m) containers, one that will house the mobile earthquake simulator, another that would contain educational displays, and a third for emergency response tools.

The proposed budget for the project is $650,000.

He said the simulator would give people the opportunity to experience what a magnitude 8 or 9 earthquake would feel like, so they could truly understand the powers of nature they would be dealing with when it happened "for real", as New Zealanders were not ready for that magnitude of earthquake.

"We’re also planning on showing the public, what type of things you need [in a disaster]. So it’s all about education.

"We will wrap that with workshops."

Having a mobile earthquake simulator means the containers and simulator can be moved around the country, so even remote communities could have access to it and learn from it.

Mr Hampton said the project was in the "feasibility study" stage and feedback from potential stakeholders had been "extremely positive." 

He hoped that would lead to the National Emergency Management Agency and eventually the emergency management minister.

"I have high hopes for the rollout."

The Listen UP team also includes his wife, Sandra, a retired veterinary nurse familiar with animal welfare in disaster situations; Ian Leader, an Auckland-based civil defence project leader for the Pōkeno area in the Waikato region; and Andre Scrivener, a member of the National Red Cross disaster team.

Listen UP was born from another product Mr Hampton developed around communication in disaster and emergency situations, a wireless network called SafetyNet, developed after he constructed a "mesh node" that was wind and solar-powered in his garage.

"It is a solar-powered wireless mesh network that can cover a township and provide 24-7 connectivity when disaster strikes.

"That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get access to Facebook or TikTok or streaming video. It’s not there for that.

"Safety Net is offline... the network remains up and accessible when there is no internet connection."

He said that during the Christchurch earthquake of a 6.3 magnitude, in 2011, the council deployed a platform that allowed users to post information to a map.

His proposed system uses the same model with different features.

"So you can adapt that, by changing the icons you apply to the map.

"Our one, we call ‘Tidepools’... you pin natural disaster icons to the map and leave a message and then people can comment on that, Facebook style, so you can have a discussion about a particular issue.

Mr Hampton said loss of communication in disasters meant New Zealand faced what could potentially be an "existential threat".

"From a emergency response point of view, communications is No1.

"In a disaster, losing comms means everyone needs to rely on Civil Defence and if they can’t communicate, where is the messaging?

"They say, listen to the radio, but what if the infrastructure is down and you can’t get a radio signal?

"Every disaster we’ve faced, [we’ve had] a loss of power and loss of comms."

He gave Cyclone Gabrielle as an example.

‘In Hawke’s Bay they did lose comms, because I know Taskforce Kiwi was required to take comms to certain areas.

"The issue being this has never been about civil defence. This has been about the fact that if Kiwis lose connectivity, they are instantly on their own and left to fend on their own."

Mr Hampton said that in this day and age with modern "digital technology, at our fingertips" it "has to be possible" to keep people connected.

"If we have an Alpine Fault 8 rupture... God forbid if it’s a 9 or above. The infrastructure in the South Island is going to be toast and that includes cell towers."

He said the ability to keep communications alive during an earthquake or disaster emergency was key to survival.

Although the project is not in development stage yet, Mr Hampton plans to run the first mobile earthquake simulation in Oamaru and then drive on from there.