The risk of natural disasters, particularly earthquakes, is widely recognised in New Zealand and the recent events are an important reminder for every home to have a comprehensive emergency action plan.
Mainmark, one of New Zealand’s leading ground engineering firms, is very aware of the risks and problems associated with earthquakes and encourages residents to be appropriately and proactively prepared with the following guide.
How to prepare for an earthquake
Make sure your home has a fully stocked emergency kit, including the following items
- First aid kit and medicine
- Torch with plenty of spare batteries
- Battery powered radio
- Pet supplies
- Bathroom supplies, including toilet paper and rubbish bags
- Face and dust masks
It’s possible that water, electricity and telecommunications may be disrupted, with the potential for your home to be cut off for weeks. As such, having a 2-week emergency supply of non-perishable food and at least 3 litres of water per person is crucial. It’s important to discuss with family members and friends how you will communicate in an emergency without relying on home phones and mobiles, ensuring that everyone is safe and located.
What to do in the event of an earthquake
During an earthquake, the ‘drop, cover and hold’ procedure is recommended – taking cover under sturdy furniture until shaking subsides. To make your home safer in the event of an earthquake, fix furniture to walls with specialised nails and screws, and consider adding a lip to cupboards and benches to help prevent ornaments and appliances from falling. A number of video guides are available to help quake-proof the home here.
Have your emergency radio on and listen for announcements that affect your area. In the event that you need to evacuate, a getaway kit is another essential to have for each member of the household. The getaway kit should include all items from the emergency kit, plus the following additions:
- Specialised needs items such as hearing aids, glasses or mobility aids
- Emergency water and small non-perishables including energy bars and dried foods
- Essential items for pets and/or infants including special food, formula, etc
- A change of waterproof clothing and strong outdoor shoes
- Additional toiletries, including soap, sanitary items and toothbrushes
How to tell if your house has been affected by an earthquake
As residents begin the general clean up around the home and property, initial post-earthquake damage will be evident. Small broken or damaged items, as well as perishables, can be disposed of immediately. It’s recommended you conduct an audit of your property, taking photos of any damage sustained during the earthquake to provide as evidence to insurance companies when making a claim. Following an earthquake, there may be warning signs of structural damage to the home, including cracks in walls or uneven flooring, making it essential to have the foundations of your home professionally assessed. Liquefaction may also be a sign of weak ground that can result in foundation issues.
Who to contact in an emergency
Local councils are responsible for planning and managing emergency situations, working closely with emergency services to ensure an appropriate response to natural disasters. Residents are encouraged to remain calm and patient after an earthquake, and to listen to the local radio station for regular updates. Telephone lines are to be kept clear for emergency calls and residents are urged to only call if there is a direct threat to life or property. For more information, visit //getthru.govt.nz/who-to-contact
Where to find out more information
There are a number of government resources available to New Zealand residents, with sites such as Get Thru and EQC being useful references. Should you require a structural assessment of your home following an earthquake, a structural engineer should be consulted in the first instance. For homes affected by ground deformation including liquefaction, Mainmark has a range of solutions that can help to raise, re-level and re-support your home.
Russell is the General Manager of NZ. He has been with Mainmark since the beginning and has vast knowledge of the ground engineering industry.