'Big jolt' a Wake-up Call for Wellingtonians

28 August 2009

Wellington's City Council's new Emergency Preparedness Manager says this morning's magnitude-5.2 earthquake was a "very suitable wake-up call" for Wellingtonians to be prepared for a very large quake or other big emergency.

"Really this morning's quake was just a big jolt - it was Mother Nature giving us a reminder," says Fred Mecoy. "But it was a decent quake and enough to remind Wellingtonians that one day - or night - sooner or later we will all have to deal with a full-scale emergency."

Mr Mecoy says the fact the quake was centred underwater in Cook Strait is also a reminder to residents living on or near the South Coast and around the region's coastline that they are at risk of being overwhelmed by a quake-generated tsunami.

"If people are by the sea or in low-lying areas like Kilbirnie or Seatoun, they should drop everything and head inland or to higher ground immediately the shaking stops. If a quake sets off a tsunami in Cook Strait then there'll be only a few minutes for people to get to safety before the wave hits."

People should think and plan on how they will get themselves, their families and their neighbours to safety as quickly and easily as possible, says Mr Mecoy.

"In the middle of the night, it's far better after a quake to be up the hill wishing you were still in bed, than in bed, wishing you were up the hill …"

Today's 2.00am quake was also a useful reminder for people to be fully prepared with a well-stocked emergency kit. "I know that lots of people leapt from their beds this morning and headed for the safety of doorways.

"But luckily it was a pretty small quake. People didn't find themselves suddenly awake and having to make their way in pitch-darkness through a badly-damaged house littered with broken houseware and scattered appliances."

Perhaps Wellingtonians could take some time this weekend to make sure they have torches in working order - and a sufficient stock of fresh batteries. Preferably they should know where the torch is - how about in the bedside cabinet?"

They can also check whether they have emergency stocks of water, food and the other necessities of life."