What I’ve learned from the Christchurch, NZ earthquake
This is by no means meant to be a flippant post. The Christchurch Earthquake is devastating. I am lucky enough that my friends and family that I know down there are all alive and okay. Others are not so lucky.
And this is what I’ve learned from following what’s happened.
1) My next house will not have a chimney, not be a brick building, and will be checked for current earthquake codes. Chimneys fell down into houses, onto cars, and in general caused a lot of havoc. I always thought the new building codes excluded chimneys because the open fire was a danger. Now I know it’s actually an earthquake hazard. Besides that, wood moves, but brick falls down.
2) Surviving an earthquake has everything to do with luck, and not so much about preparation. The stories of people who survived are full of “I just happened to go into the next room,” “We couldn’t decide which cafe to go into so we were on the street instead of the building that fell down” “We had just left the cathedral” and similar. No rhyme or reason. Just luck.
3) Women should stop wearing heels and wear more comfortable shoes. Many people walked out of the city, because either their cars were crushed, or because the roads were unpassable. One of my friends walked for 2 hours to get to her children. Doing that in heels would have been really hard. Not to mention that when the roads are flooding with sewage and the ground has liquified into mud, heels just aren’t going to cut it.
4) You know how the authorities are always saying you should have a meet-up plan in case of disaster? That’s a really good idea. Many people were separated from their children and their partners and were panicking because they didn’t know where they were and if they were okay. The ones that didn’t panic right away were the ones who had a plan – for example, that Dad would go get 2 kids and Mom would go get the other, and they’d meet in one particular civil defence meeting area. And don’t count on your mobile phones – many people had no service on their mobiles.
5) In the event of a disaster, check in with the Red Cross or whatever other authority is there as soon as you can so they can update their registers. Makes it easier for people to find you.
6) While the earthquake is going on , move the table you’re hiding under as close to the outside walls as possible. (Hard to do in a serious earthquake, but important if it’s possible) If you get buried, it will be easier for the search people to find you closer to the walls than if you were buried in the middle of the building.
7) Water is extremely important. The only safe water in Christchurch right now is the bottled stuff. The sterilisation tablets don’t work in sewage water. So the survival packs the authorities keep talking about is a must. Now, I know a survival pack is near useless if it’s buried under bricks, or if it’s at home and you’re at work. Still worth making though, in case you are able to access it. Might be worth it to keep a smaller survival pack at work, too.
8) It is extremely important to check your neighbours and help the people around you when and where you can. Especially the elderly, the infirm, and the mentally ill.
9) Turn the TV off whenever a major disaster occurs. TV Journalists are not socially responsible and will put up pictures of unidentified dead, badly hurt people, and people saying things you don’t want young ones to hear. They also ask survivors really stupid questions.
10) For every large earthquake, there is an answering aftershock at about one magnitude less from the original. That’s why this earthquake (at 6.3) was officially an aftershock of the September 4th quake (at 7.1). Scary stuff. And on the topic of aftershocks, I didn’t know, until the September 4th quake, that the aftershocks just keep going and going. I thought it was 2-5 more and then they were done. But for Christchurch, nearly 5000 earthquakes later, the majority of them aftershocks, it just keeps going.