Editorial: Prepare for a shakeout

Last updated 05:00 26/09/2012

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We at the Herald have signed up for the New Zealand Shakeout, organised by Civil Defence and touted as being the country's largest earthquake drill.

Apparently 1.3 million people will drop, cover and hold at 9.26 this morning, which I thought was a pretty random time until I saw that today is the 26th of the ninth month.

I'll admit to being sceptical about the newsroom joining in. Given half a chance journos would sit through a blaring fire drill rather than traipse outside, so I wonder what they'll do when asked to dive under their desks when absolutely nothing is happening. Especially as there's an element of bravado whenever the building actually does shake. "Me, dive under the desk, nah, it was only a 5.2."

How to signal an earthquake when one isn't happening will be interesting. Civil Defence sirens won't sound, and you're not supposed to use the company fire alarm. Too confusing, the Fire Service says. They'd be obliged to turn up then, and the one thing Civil Defence doesn't want people doing in an earthquake is wandering outside. Nor for that matter do they want people dropping, covering and holding in a fire. So yes, let's not mix up our drills.

Overall an earthquake drill isn't a silly idea, even if people might feel silly doing it. There's merit in actually practising an action for it to become more natural in an emergency. And it might prompt some in the office to realise they couldn't get under their desk in a real earthquake if they tried, given the junk that's there.

And we're bribing participants with chocolate fish.

It's also got to be valuable in schools, hospitals and rest homes, making those in charge think about what they would do in an earthquake.

Christchurch people apparently are not being forced to participate. They are traumatised enough and don't need reminding, Civil Defence says. Fair enough. After thousands of aftershocks if you don't know what to do now, you never will.

But for us there's a benefit, because of that "doing" element. And it's short and sweet, and requires virtually no planning.

Not like putting together an emergency rations supply at home, or working out a family disaster plan, or making the house quake-proof. All of these require some effort, and I'd wager most of us haven't heeded these campaigns.

But there's no excuse this morning.

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- The Timaru Herald


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