Some post-quake injuries 'avoidable'

NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 12:24 04/10/2012

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Christchurch Earthquake 2011

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Further education is needed to teach people what to do after an earthquake, not just during the shaking, the Safety 2012 conference has heard.

Professor David Johnston, director of the Joint Centre for Disaster Research, told the Wellington conference today that 45 per cent of the injuries caused by the September 2010 quake and 18 per cent of those caused by the February 2011 quake happened after the shaking stopped.

Johnston's project looked at more than 9000 ACC claims to determine the nature and type of injuries experienced during the quakes.

The September 2010 quake saw 377 people suffer injuries during the quake, but more than 1000 were injured when the shaking stopped.

The February 2011 quake injured 3129 people during the shake and 1293 were injured in the aftermath.

Johnston said the data, which did not look at the seriousness of injuries, showed that many injuries could have been avoided if people knew how to act once the shaking stopped.

''Even if we had really strong buildings and secure fittings, people's response actions actually led to a significant proportion of injuries.''

He said avoidable injuries included cutting feet on glass, tripping over debris or falling down stairs.

Johnston said children and the elderly were often ''disproportionately affected'' by disasters, but the figures showed Canterbury's quakes had injured a much higher percentage of adults.

About 120 children aged 17 and under injured during the September 2010 earthquake, including aftershocks within a month of the quake, compared with 1708 adults and 428 people aged 65 and over.

The February 2011 quake and its aftershocks injured 304 children, 5406 adults, and 1461 people aged 65 and over.

Many people also suffered ''secondary'' injuries during the cleanup phase of the disaster. Secondary injuries included things like sprained backs from shifting silt or falling off ladders while removing damaged chimneys.

Almost 500 people received secondary injuries after the September quake, and 1881 suffered injuries during the cleanup phase after the February quake.

Johnston said the research had shown that ''drop, cover and hold'' was still the right action to take during an earthquake, but more education needed to be shared on what to do after a quake.

''Even after the shaking stops, you still need to exercise caution,'' he said.

What to do during an earthquake:

Civil Defence advice states it ''is absolutely vital that people respond immediately'' after a severe earthquake, as confusion about what to do could result in people being seriously injured or killed.

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■ Those inside when an earthquake hits should wait until the shaking stops and make sure it is safe to exit before leaving the building.

■ Those outside should move no more than a few steps away from buildings, trees, streetlights and power lines, then drop, cover and hold until the shaking stops.

■ Drivers should pull over to a clear location, stop and stay there with their seatbelt fastened until the shaking stops. They should continue with caution and avoid bridges or ramps that could have been damaged.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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