Stop, drop and hold, safest strategy
Studies of people’s behaviour during the Christchurch earthquakes have found those who followed the ‘‘stop, drop and hold’’ mantra were the most likely to survive.
Civil Defence Ministry spokesman Vince Cholewa said research by the ministry, EQNZ and the Engineers’ Society looked at a number of actions that people actually took during the earthquakes in 2010 and 2011.
They analysed data, including accounts of patients at hospital and television footage of the actual earthquakes, and found the place to be for the best chance of survival was under sturdy furniture.
‘‘Most injuries are caused by falling debris, such as ceiling tiles, things falling off walls or bricks,’’ he said.
The Ministry’s advice is to drop to the ground, cover by getting under a sturdy desk or table and hold on to it until the shaking stops.
That advice will be reinforced by the first national earthquake drill next week, at 9.26am on Wednesday, September 26.
New Zealand had about 15,000 earthquakes each year but few are as devastating as the disaster that struck Christchurch. Most are too deep or distant to be felt, he said.
‘‘ There are about 100 big enough to be noticed.’’
If an earthquake were severe enough there could be catastrophic building collapses but most injuries were caused by falling debris.
If a table or other sturdy protection was not available, getting next to an internal wall, well away from glass was the next best thing, Mr Cholewa said.
‘‘Get down, cover your head and neck. You have got no way of knowing whether there is debris coming and which direction it is going to come from.’’
Once under a desk, people should hold on to it because it is likely to move in the shake.
Anyone who runs outside the building risks injury from falling masonry, he said.
‘‘If you are outside, the general advice is to try to cover your head and neck.
‘‘ Certainly move away – no more than a few steps is ideal – from buildings, trees or street lights. If you can get under something sturdy such as outdoor furniture, do so.’’
More than a million people had signed up for the Shakeout exercise.
Broadcast media will transmit a special civil emergency tone at 9.26 preceded by a message that it is a drill.
After a major real earthquake people should turn on a batterypowered radio, he said. Computer networks and cell-phone towers were likely to be disabled by power cuts.
‘‘It almost seems old-fashioned but radio is virtually the only medium that is guaranteed to continue.’’
In Christchurch all radio stations continued to operate despite their staff suffering the same impacts as everybody else, he said. ‘‘Even things like talk-back radio become important as a way of people reaching each other.’’