EQC pulls traumatic quake ad

A powerful advertising campaign on earthquake preparedness has been temporarily pulled because it could re-traumatise Cantabrians.

The Earthquake Commission (EQC) television campaign was due to start on Sunday evening but was pulled on Thursday after feedback from mental health groups.

EQC chief executive Ian Simpson said the awareness campaign will not change but, it plans to prepare Cantabrians in advance.

The ads are embargoed but one 30-second clip seen by The Press shows a man putting a baby in a cot near a large free-standing wardrobe and leaving the room.

There is no shaking footage but as the camera draws out of the room, text reads: "In an earthquake, your wardrobe can fall with the impact of a concrete block."

Simpson said the campaign aims to "save lives" by encouraging people to secure large items such as cabinets, chimneys and other contents.

Seven people were killed while at their Christchurch homes in the February 2011 earthquake, including eight-month-old baby Jayden Harris who died after a television fell on him.

"The concern was that mental health support groups are already stretched in Canterbury and the feeling is that it will remind people of the quake which will trigger a reaction and more demand for these service," Simpson said.

"The last thing we want to do is cause unnecessary stress but a wellbeing survey by Cera [showed] only 20 per cent of the population have done something to prepare themselves for another one."

Simpson said EQC had "consulted broadly" including writing to families of those who had lost loved ones in the quake. Feedback from those families had been "very supportive", Simpson said. "They said the rest of the country needs to learn.

"I have also been across the country and shown about 700 EQC staff, they said ‘we need to do this' but when information came back from the Ministry of Health, that's when we took their advice."

Simpson said he was still keen to run the campaign this year but is considering ways to mitigate its impact on Cantabrians. Options include running the ad only in the North Island or putting a schedule on the EQC website so people could turn off their televisions.

Canterbury District Health Board chief executive David Meates and the Ministry of Health's director of mental health Dr John Crawshaw said they were working with EQC to ensure the ad had a positive result.

Fairfax Media