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Source: Earthquake Commission – EQC

Oamaru students from St Joseph’s School will be setting an example of how to respond in an earthquake for more than 500,000 Kiwis next Thursday as they take part in New Zealand ShakeOut.

ShakeOut is led by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and co-sponsored by the Earthquake Commission (EQC) to remind New Zealand what to do during an earthquake and tsunami.

A week from today, on 28 October at 9:30am, people are encouraged wherever they are in Aotearoa to practice the Drop, Cover, and Hold actions to protect themselves from harm during earthquake shaking, while those in coastal areas, particularly tsunami evacuation zones, are encouraged to practise their tsunami evacuation. 

NEMA Chief Executive, Dave Gawn, says by practising ShakeOut every year, learning the correct actions to take in an earthquake or tsunami will become second nature.

“All of Aotearoa can use ShakeOut to practise what to do in an earthquake and tsunami. It’s also a good opportunity to make an emergency plan and check your supplies.”

Otago was picked as the venue of the exercise as it is sometimes seen as a ‘quieter’ area regarding earthquakes, but in fact the region has a number of active fault lines, much like most of New Zealand, and is at risk of damage from a large magnitude earthquake originating from the Alpine Fault. 

To better understand and manage the risks of earthquakes in low seismic areas like Otago and Southland, EQC has been funding research by Professor Mark Stirling, Chair of Earthquake Science, and Research Associate Professor Caroline Orchiston, who is Director of the Centre for Sustainability at the University of Otago.

“The biggest danger in an area like Otago is that many people don’t think there is going to be an earthquake in these seismically quiet areas, so we don’t prepare as much as we would in somewhere like Wellington,” says Professor Stirling, who is mapping faults with very low rates of activity and prioritising them for further investigations as a future Canterbury earthquake scenario is realistic for somewhere in Otago or Southland.

St Joseph’s School is located just 200m from the shoreline, so students and teachers are in a ‘yellow’ tsunami evacuation zone and would need to evacuate in the event of a possible tsunami.

EQC Chief Resilience and Research Officer, Dr Jo Horrocks says ShakeOut is a significant event for New Zealanders. “At EQC, we’re working really hard to minimise the impact of future natural hazards on communities. Our beautiful land is one of the highest-risk countries in the world for a range of natural hazards, but there is a lot we can all do to prepare for them.”

Dr Horrocks says it is fantastic that over half a million Kiwis have already signed up for ShakeOut.

“Taking a bit of time to think about how hazards could affect us at home, work or school, and then taking steps to prepare – these are things that will make a big difference in a disaster.” 

Earthquakes in Canterbury and Kaikōura, and more recently in Melbourne, show that significant quakes can occur anywhere. 

In 1974, a magnitude 5 earthquake struck offshore from Dunedin resulted in EQC receiving 3000 claims from homeowners at the time.

New Zealand ShakeOut 2021 is coordinated by the NEMA and the EQC, along with local and central government organisations, emergency and lifeline services and the private sector. 

Find out more and sign up to New Zealand ShakeOut 2021 at