Matt Spackman was resting on the couch following a long night shift when he first got a call about the devastation and destruction from across the Tasman.
"It was incredibly quick. The phone rang and I looked up at the TV and saw the earthquake unfolding in Christchurch, and I was asked if I was available to be deployed," Mr Spackman said.
"Within 24 hours of being notified we were on the site of the earthquake."
Mr Spackman was one of several ACT Emergency Service Agency crew members deployed to Christchurch to help with rescue efforts in the wake of the devastating 6.2 magnitude earthquake, which struck the city in 2011.
Monday marks 10 years to the day since the disaster unfolded, which claimed the lives of 185 people.
Mr Spackman was among the first deployment of Australian emergency crews to assist in the recovery, which involved going into the rubble of flattened building and searching for survivors.
"It was an eerie feeling, because Christchurch is a similar size to Canberra, and there was no power and emergency warning systems were going off across the city," he said.
"It was more like a warzone. We turned up and it was dark and there were all the aftershocks as well, which shook the ground and the remnants of the buildings we were expected to go in and inspect."
At the time of the earthquake, Mr Spackman was the most junior member of the rescue crew that was flown in from Australia to assist, which was made up of emergency crew members from states across the country.
He said the impact of the earthquake was particularly violent.
"Office buildings we were searching in had collapsed like pancakes, all the floors had fallen on top of people and people inside at the time were caught unawares," he said.
"We were finding people who were under their desks or in bins and finding people everywhere. We were locating bodies on a frequent basis."
Fellow ESA member Col O'Rourke was sent over to Christchurch as part of a second Australian contingent, 10 days after the earthquake.
"Our role was to go in and help retrieve the bodies that had been identified by the first deployment," he said.
"As we progressed, we started getting more beyond the rubble and started to support the recovery of the community and doing work to get people back into houses and reinstall power."
Mr O'Rourke said he could still remember the silence that engulfed the city in the wake of the earthquake.
"We had done our homework on how big the damage was and what the landscape would be like but it was nothing like we first thought," he said.
"Buildings were on their side and completely demolished. The roads were all uneven and distorted and the liquification of the soil had bubbled to the surface.
"We were challenged in a way we had never been challenged before."
ACT Ambulance member Robert Wiggins was an urban search and rescue paramedic sent in the third wave of Aussie help. "It was just bizarre to be in a city that by that stage had been fully evacuated with no signs of life. There were no birds or animals and certainly no people. I still remember the smell of the food shops because they all had their fridges turned off all week and all the food had been rotting," he said.
Mr Spackman will reunite with some of his fellow Australian crew members on Monday in Sydney to coincide with the anniversary and to watch a livestream of commemoration services broadcast from New Zealand. "It's definitely hard to believe it's been 10 years on," he said.