Canterbury Seismic Instruments (CSI), developers of earthquake response solution Sentinel, has partnered with the Wellington City Council to install more than 100 new sensors across the city.

Wellington Mayor Andy Foster says Sentinel will present a number of significant advantages for the city as a whole following any sizeable earthquake – notably that the ground-shaking data will help emergency managers make quick decisions about which City Council buildings are safe for occupancy.

The Sentinel earthquake response service enables subscribed business operators and building owners to rapidly assess the condition of buildings and infrastructure after a shake throughout the city. It delivers real-time earthquake building status updates to cities and building owners, occupiers and property managers. Sentinel was created to provide simple, clear, reliable information in real-time for critical decision-making that is specific to every location.

When an earthquake hits, the Sentinel network immediately collects all the shaking data. It analyses it in real-time and compares detailed ground "response spectra" to the design response spectra for the building or structure at every Sentinel subscriber location. It then immediately sends to each Sentinel subscriber the clear unambiguous message they need, unique to their location and building, for their immediate stay-or-go decision.

Dr Hamish Avery, the CTO and Government Relations Manager at CSI, says a dense grid is necessary to ensure accurate measurement of the shaking at every point due to the big differences in ground and soil conditions and subsurface structures in central Wellington.

"Over several hundred metres you can go from solid rock to reclaimed land to old marshy areas and stream beds in parts of the CBD," says Dr Avery. "This means the shaking will vary greatly over small distances and helps to explain why some Wellington buildings were badly damaged in the 2016 Kaikoura quake, and had to be demolished, while others nearby were undamaged."

In the past, decisions have always been based on superficial observations that are little better than guesses. "There's only one way to know the actual shaking at a location: measure it at that location," says Sentinel General Manager Len Damiano. "There's been no way for any building owner or occupier to address any of these unknowns, or answer any of these questions, without committing to install an expensive, dedicated system on every site, until now."

"Sentinel has installations spanning New Zealand and is being used to protect over 100,000 people and several hundred organisations ranging from hospitals, fire stations and airports, along with many commercial tenants, building owners and portfolio managers," says Mr Damiano. "With the inclusion of Wellington City, Sentinel marks an important step in providing complete coverage of the highest-risk population areas in the country."

Expansion of the Sentinel network in central Wellington is now underway and will be complete by September.