New Zealand ShakeOut drill highlights importance of earthquake preparedness

Issue 43 – October 2012

On Wednesday, 26 September at 9.26 am over 1.3 million people took part in the first ever national earthquake drill. Standards New Zealand and many of the visitors to its offices dropped, covered, and held as part of the exercise.

New Zealand ShakeOut was created to help people and organisations get better prepared for major earthquakes, and practise how to protect themselves when they do happen. Everyone practised 'drop, cover, and hold' – the right action to take in an earthquake.

According to the New Zealand ShakeOut website, 10 000 to 15 000 earthquakes are recorded each year in and around New Zealand, but only about 150 of these are felt. New Zealand experiences many earthquakes because it is located across the boundary of two tectonic plates.

A large earthquake could happen anywhere in New Zealand.

Based on its seismic history, New Zealand should experience 10 to 20 magnitude 5 earthquakes and one magnitude 6 earthquake each year, and a magnitude 7 earthquake each decade. However, earthquakes are not evenly spread over time and they often occur in clusters. A damaging earthquake could happen at any time. At least a million New Zealanders (around 25 per cent of the population) are expected to experience shaking great enough to damage household contents and buildings in the next 50 years.

Standards New Zealand's involvement

As Standards New Zealand was born out of an earthquake (Hawke's Bay 3 February 1931) it seemed only fitting that we participate in this event.

New Zealand ShakeOut also provided us with a fantastic opportunity for our organisation to examine and review our own emergency preparedness arrangements.

Robyn Fitzgerald, Senior Manager Solutions at Standards New Zealand, was responsible for coordinating the drill and observed that the exercise was a great success. She says that, 'We had full participation during the drill – even the couriers who happened to be on our floor at the time dropped and looked for cover!

'It also highlighted to us all that our preconceptions of what might be safe during an earthquake aren't always right. Some staff found that the leg of the desk they were holding onto wasn't actually secured to either the desk or floor, while others discovered they didn't have enough room under their desks. Not everyone was by their desk during the drill so they had to quickly work out where the safest place to take shelter might be.'

The New Zealand ShakeOut drill was a great opportunity for everyone to practise what to do in a real life earthquake and to also take some time to review how prepared they are in their business and at home.


Published in business and ICT.