What to do in an earthquake

As we are all too painfully aware, New Zealand is no stranger to earthquakes. While we can’t prevent, we can prepare. Read on to find out what you should do before, during and after an earthquake strikes.
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As we are all too painfully aware, New Zealand is no stranger to earthquakes. These terrifying natural events can cause all sorts of injuries as a result of falling debris, shattered glass and collapsing buildings or bridges. If that wasn’t enough, earthquakes can also trigger fires, landslides, avalanches, flash floods and tsunami. This makes it vital that we all know what to do before, during and after a seismic event:

Before an earthquake

  • Work out an emergency plan with your family, workmates or flatmates. 
  • This means putting together a basic emergency survival kit that can help you survive a couple of days with no home (or at home with no power and water). Plus, you should also work out where you’ll meet after an earthquake to make sure that you’re all safe.
  • Practice Drop, Cover and Hold 
  • Note all the safe places you can find in your home, school or workplace. This means a sturdy desk or table. Unless you live in an older house, you should forget about doorways as they’re not built as strongly as they used to be 
  • Bolt any heavy items of furniture to the floor or wall so they won’t move around in a quake.

During an earthquake

  • If you feel an earthquake starting, don’t wait for it to get worse: Drop. Cover. Hold
  • Drop down onto your hands and knees (before the earthquakes knocks you down). This position protects you from falling but allows you to still move if necessary 
  • Cover your head and neck under a sturdy table or desk if you can 
  • Hold on to your shelter (or to your head and neck) until the shaking stops. Be prepared to move with your shelter if the shaking shifts it around. 
  • Try not to move around during a quake as you’ve got no stable ground to walk on. Take no more than a few steps to find the nearest safe place 
  • If you are inside a building, stay indoors till the shaking stops and you are sure it is safe to exit. In most buildings in New Zealand you are safer to stay where you are until the shaking stops 
  • If you are outdoors when the shaking starts, try and get away from any buildings, trees, street lights and power lines then Drop, Cover and Hold 
  • If you are at the beach, Drop, Cover and Hold then move to higher ground in case a tsunami follows the quake 
  • If you are driving, pull over off the road and stop until the shaking stops. Once the shaking stops, proceed with caution and avoid bridges or roads that might have been damaged 
  • If you are on a hill or mountain, watch out for falling debris or landslides.

After an earthquake

  • Check that you’re okay first then see if anyone else needs help
  • If you smell gas or hear a hissing noise, open a window and get everyone out as fast as you can. Turn the gas off too if possible
  • If you see sparks or downed power lines turn off the electricity at the main fuse box 
  • Fires may start up so put them out if you can 
  • If the building or home you’re in is damaged, try to get outside and find a safe, open place. Use the stairs, not the elevators 
  • Be patient as the power may be off for a while. Fire alarms and / or sprinkler systems can also go off in buildings even if there is no fire 
  • Listen to your local radio stations for reports from Civil Defence as to what to do next 
  • Expect to feel aftershocks 
  • Don’t rubberneck in damaged areas. Help if you can, otherwise stay out
  • Let people know you’re okay but try not to use the phone too much to keep the lines clear for emergency calls
  • Keep an eye on your pets or livestock as they may be anxious and hurt themselves or others after a serious quake 
  • If your home is damaged, take notes and photographs for insurance purposes. If you rent your property, contact your landlord and your contents insurance company as soon as possible. 

For more information on what to do when disaster strikes, visit getthru.govt.nz

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