OPINION: A lot of New Zealanders rate themselves as quasi-experts when it comes to earthquakes.
It's one of the odd results of the devastating Canterbury quakes of 2010 and last year.
When a quake or aftershock hits, there's usually an outburst of reactions on Twitter, followed by a set of predictions on magnitude, depth and duration.
Apart from the larger ones it's almost a light-hearted way for people to deal with the anxiety of having the earth move under them.
On Tuesday night, a 7.0-magnitude quake struck off the southern Taranaki coast. It was 230 kilometres below the earth's surface, but was still widely felt and it rattled plenty of people.
(People who'd experienced larger, nasty quakes may roll their eyes, but to the uninitiated there was genuine fear.)
The next day it was the topic of conversation at homes and workplaces across the North Island and, supposedly, a wake-up call.
In reality, it probably won't be.
A few people might buy or update their emergency survival kits, but most people won't bother.
That's human nature.
A story this week once again outlined how Wellington would be affected if a major quake struck. Infrastructure and supply routes would isolate the capital like no other city in the country.The geography of the area, one of its great features, would also prove to be its downfall in a disaster.
If such a dreaded event happened, places like Palmerston North would play a vital role in helping to support Wellington and get it back up and running.
It would become a natural base to keep things going, making sure important telecommunication links were kept open.
The region's military strength would be called on for all kinds of logistical activities.
Of course, all of this is hypothetical and hopefully will never happen. But it could.
The people of Canterbury were probably in the same camp two years ago, but now know that having a plan in place and having the essentials of life handy is something that is necessary, rather than something that's put on a "to do" list.
It's not about scaremongering, it's simply about being prepared for something that could happen one day and you don't want to be caught short.
ONE MORE THING
For something that only a small percentage of people could understand, the Higgs Boson discovery got a heap of coverage. I'm not ashamed to say I tried and failed to get the gist of it. What's almost as incredible is that several billion dollars were spent making a machine – the large hadron collider – not knowing whether there'd be a result. Who would know if they were just making up the recent results? Not that they would, of course.
- © Fairfax NZ News