Emergency response -- Red Cross IT and the quake aftermath

The New Zealand Red Cross IT team was just returning to some kind of normality following the September earthquake in Christchurch, when the second, more damaging quake struck the city on February 22 shortly before 1pm.

For the next few hours the organisation's website was put under enormous strain as people around the world logged onto the site seeking information about the disaster.

IT Manager Charles Ranby says at one point there was an unprecedented amount of traffic from people seeking information about the emergency and wishing to make donations. "It was overloaded, and we had to rebuild and put more capacity in to cope with demand. It was very slow to respond for a good four to six hour period, while we were getting the capacity set up for that," he says.

Web host Netspace had a technician monitoring traffic, but Ranby says there was little he could do "when half the world is visiting the site".

The second earthquake, unlike the first quake in September, claimed lives and Ranby's first task was ensuring the website and related IT systems could cope with the influx of queries about missing people.