What to do After an Earthquake

27 August 2013

It is frightening to stay in a building immediately after an earthquake but it is usually much safer than immediately going outside.

Wellington Region Emergency Management Office in Thorndon.

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The advice from the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management is that you do not have to evacuate a building straight away unless it is showing obvious signs of damage.

When you eventually evacuate, do take your wallet, coat, bag, etc. You are more vulnerable if you leave those things behind. If you have a getaway kit or “go bag”, take it.

Have a plan before you need it. Tell others what you plan to do. An evacuation assembly area in case of fire might not be appropriate after an earthquake. Large open areas with no tall buildings, power lines or other hazards immediately adjacent are best.

It is often better to remain in your building until a safest route has been found and it is clear whether there is any tsunami risk.

If you gather outside directly below high rise buildings - as many people did during the 6.6 shake two weeks ago - you are at risk of being hit by falling glass and masonry if there are significant aftershocks.

Shaking may activate alarms, which can be confusing. Follow the advice of your building wardens and evacuate to a safe place immediately if there is any risk of fire.

If you are outside in the central business district or suburban centres when an earthquake happens, move no more than a few steps then drop, cover and hold. When the shaking stops, move to a safer location away from buildings.

The recent shake showed that most people knew to drop, cover and hold during the earthquake but many did not know what to do afterwards.

The Ministry suggests workplaces develop a plan for what to do immediately after a major earthquake, assuming serious damage.

In the case of smaller, more common, earthquakes such a plan can be scaled back.

The traffic congestion during the Friday afternoon quake showed what happens when too many people try to leave the city by car at once so consider other ways you could get home. In a serious event, roads are likely to be affected and emergency services will need to get through, so walking may well be the best and fastest option.

For more information on developing a plan, a getaway kit and other ways you can be better prepared at work and at home, visit:
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