Preparedness tips for Earthquakes
Information in this section has been sourced from the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management and was developed in collaboration with local and national civil defence agencies and the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering.
Pick earthquake 'safe places' in each room of your home and your office or school. A safe place could be under a piece of furniture, such as a sturdy table or desk, or against an interior wall away from windows, bookcases, or tall furniture that could fall on you. The shorter the distance to your safe place, the less likely it is that you will be injured by furnishings that become flying debris during the shaking. Injury statistics show that persons moving more than 2 metres during an earthquake's shaking are the most likely to experience injury. Practise drop, cover, and hold on in each safe place for an earthquake.
Drop to the floor, take cover under a sturdy piece of furniture, and hold on to a leg of the furniture. If suitable furniture is not nearby, sit on the floor next to an interior wall and cover your head and neck with your arms. Responding quickly in an earthquake may help protect you from injury. Practise drop, cover, and hold on at least twice a year. Keep a torch and sturdy shoes by your bed in case of an earthquake.
There is a high likelihood there will be power cuts following an earthquake and you don’t want to be hunting for a torch. Also, things may have been broken around the home and you don’t want to cut your feet, so remember to keep sturdy shoes ready. Talk with your insurance company about earthquake top-up insurance.
When residential property owners take fire insurance on their houses they automatically gain EQC earthquake cover up to $100,000. When taking general contents insurance they are similarly covered to the value of $20,000 by EQC. For cover beyond these values, you need to take earthquake top-up insurance through your insurance company. Check to ensure this cover is in place. Commercial property owners need to take earthquake insurance to cover their losses to their chosen level. Inform guests, babysitters, and caregivers of earthquake plans.
Everyone in your home should know what to do if an earthquake occurs, even if you are not there at the time.Make sure your home is securely anchored to its foundation for an earthquake.
Depending on the type of construction and the materials used in building your home, you may need to have it bolted or secured in another way to its foundation. If you are not sure that your home is securely anchored, seek advice from a building assessor or builder. Homes securely attached to their foundations are less likely to be severely damaged during earthquakes, while homes that are not are frequently ripped from their foundations and become uninhabitable. Secure water cylinders and gas appliances to wall studs for an earthquake.
If the water cylinder tips over, the gas line could break, causing a fire hazard, and the water line could rupture. The water heater may be your best source of drinkable water following an earthquake. Water cylinders on new houses are required to be strapped in place. Such straps are easy to fit and should be fitted to existing cylinders. Consider also having flexible fittings for gas and water pipes. Bolt bookcases, china cabinets, and other tall furniture to wall studs for an earthquake.
Brace or anchor high or top-heavy objects. During an earthquake, these items can fall over, causing damage or injury. Hang heavy items, such as pictures and mirrors, away from beds, couches, and anywhere people sleep or sit in case of an earthquake.
Earthquakes can knock things off walls, causing damage or injury. Brace overhead light fixtures in case of an earthquake.
During earthquakes, overhead light fixtures are the most common items to fall, causing damage or injury. Install strong latches or bolts on cabinets in case of an earthquake.
The contents of cabinets can shift during an earthquake. Latches will prevent cabinets from opening and spilling out the contents. Place large or heavy objects on shelves near the floor. Consider having your building evaluated by a professional structural design engineer in preparation for an earthquake.
Ask about home repair and strengthening tips for exterior features, such as porches, front and back decks, sliding glass doors, canopies, carports, and garage doors. This is particularly important if there are signs of structural defects, such as foundation cracks. Earthquakes can turn cracks into ruptures and make small problems bigger. A professional can give you advice on how to reduce potential damage. Comply with earthquake design standards and land use recommendations for an earthquake.
The New Zealand Building Code aims to ensure that buildings are safe even during major earthquakes. Recent additions to the Code aim to identify earthquake-prone buildings that fall significantly short of modern standards and recommend their upgrading. The Resource Management Act aims to ensure that building sites are suitable as building platforms. A recently released Ministry for the Environment risk-based guideline is available to control development over active faults where ground rupture may create an additional hazard to buildings.