Stuart Kilduff was attending an emergency services conference in Wellington, New Zealand, when he got a call that Christchurch, his hometown some 270 miles (440 kilometers) away, had been hit by a massive earthquake. “The place was full of emergency services people, civil defense, army, you name it,” he says as he recalls that early afternoon on February 22, 2011. “They all went running for the door.”
After checking that his family and colleagues were safe, Kilduff, who works as operations manager for energy provider Orion New Zealand, made his way to the airport, and boarded an air ambulance bound for the stricken city. “One of my control managers has been in the game for years and normally nothing rattles him,” Kilduff recalls. “You could tell from his voice that he was quite shook up by the way the building reacted. It nearly collapsed so they were pretty lucky.”
When he landed, Kilduff went straight into Orion’s operation center and spent the first night trying to figure out the extent of the damage to the power network.