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Hard and Fast

What do you do if you're in the CBD in an Earthquake?

By Antonios Karantze, in , posted: 22-Jul-2013 17:06

Like many people today I have been watching the numerous videos on the various news websites - and so far the site for NZ Herald seems to have better quality content than Stuff in general - and it occurs to me there is a real absence of useful information about what to do if an Earthquake hits while you are in the streets of a CBD.

In many ways Wellington was lucky with this event - and I'm confident it's not over - and one of those was that it was a sunday evening (5.09pm to be precise) and most people were at home. I was cooking dinner in the kitchen.

Of course, 5.09pm on a weekday would have been quite a different story - the streets would be full of people either scurrying to the railway station for a train or bus home, if not waiting on Lambton Quay for a bus.

In this event - and if you rewatch footage of the Christchurch events - building facades broke off and windows shattered and fell. A friend of mine was caught on TV video jogging through CHCH just as a facade collapsed and barely missed him (thinking of you Dave....)

The Governments 'Get Through' website - Get Through - contains really good, genuine information on preparation and what to do but is really heavy on the presumption you will be at home when something big happens (as it did on Sunday). But there is next to nothing on what to do if you happen to be in a metro area surrounded by tall buildings, except for the line 'drop/cover/hold' with pictures indicating you get under a table.

I walk to work frequently, which is one of the major benefits of Wellington, but occasionally do have to drive in and park because of weather or sheer time boundaries in the morning or evening. It's just the way it is. 

I also frequently walk along The Terrace, Bolton Street, Aurora Terrace, Lambton Quay and the 'Golden Mile' up to Manners Street. All area's which will turn into one epic zone of death from debris and glass in the event of a really strong shake. 

What exactly, is the suggested plan for people to do, if they happen to be caught out on the street? There is a distinct absence of handy tables on the street for one to duck under, and no real ideas I can find from an hour of googling on what to do. It's just so unexpected.

The state described above is a uniquely Wellington problem with description to match. But Christchurch is being rebuilt with a new CBD and a permanent membership to the Earthquake club... and we all know New Zealand is on a number of active tectonic plates (meaning nowhere is free of earthquake risk - I'm looking at you Auckland)... given so many people work in the city and around so much risk potential, surely there must be good guidance on how to protect yourself, somewhere.

People do need to know this, more than ever now as so many of us are acutely tuned to what just happened.

Drop Cover Hold sounds great on a website and is really, really unhelpful if you happen to be in the street. 

I expect the suggestions will be just as unsatisfying and very much along the lines of 'well.... there's not that much...', but my daughters sprang into action at home on Sunday as they had been trained. My youngest suggested I become a turtle in the middle of the street - and looking at The Terrace that filled me with utter dread.

This is not a complaint. It is a call for more information... because I'm certainly blinkin listening...! 

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Comment by bruce, on 22-Jul-2013 20:35

i was inside an arcade in cashel mall in the chch quake, everyone started running outside but someone wise was yelling at people to stop... just as the facades came crashing down in front of us.From what I saw that day, most of the damage/injuries i saw were within 1 or 2m of shop fronts. So I would say, if inside stay inside, if outside stay outside (and get to a wide open space) if close to buildings ... move.Honestly though, not much you can do in the moment though adrenaline kicks in and you just move. The drop cover hold only kicks in for me after a few seconds .... if the ground doesn't stop moving.

Comment by mattwnz, on 23-Jul-2013 19:50

You have to remember that Wellingtons building stock on average  is better than Christchurchs was, as many building have been strengthened, and dangous facades removed. 

Comment by allan, on 25-Jul-2013 10:50

Personally I'd try and get into a building, rather than try and stay in the street. Look at how much masonry fell off of buildings on Sunday, even although no major facade collapses occurred. It only takes a small piece of falling concrete to cause major injury.

Whether I would actually remember to do this at the time is another matter of course.

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antoniosk's profile

Antonios Karantze
New Zealand

I'm a born and bred Wellingtonian, and have chosen IT and Telecommunications as my industry, as a Commercial Manager.

Credits include but are not limited to:
- The O2 Xda smartphone range, and O2's range of 3G Mobile Internet services
- Numerous TelstraClear Mobile and IP voice products

In my journey through the industry I have worked at
- Bellsouth NZ
- Telecom NZ
- ICO Global
- T-Mobile International (formerly One2One Communications)
- O2 Plc
- TelstraClear
- Vodafone NZ

I'm a fan of technology, and what it can do for people and business... and I enjoy bringing new things to market and seeing them grow. Enjoy the blog, take the time to think about what I write - it's not technology heavy, and is my reflection on life and the people around me.