Are you prepared for an Emergency?

A little over a week ago New Zealand experienced another devastating earthquake on the South Island, but as it occurred shortly after midnight with the epicentre in a rural farming community, hundreds of lives were spared. Sadly there were two lives lost and we pause to think of them and their loved ones. But had it been like the one which devastated much of Christchurch during lunch time on a beautiful Summer morning in February 2011 in which 185 people tragically lost their lives, it could have been very much worse.

household-emergency-checklist
Snapshot of a Household Emergency Checklist. Image courtesy of the website, http://www.getthru.govt.nz

Although it happened on the South Island, the effects were felt half way up the North Island and being islands, it triggered a tsunami warning. I’ve only ever felt one earthquake since living in New Zealand and it was more a tremor than an earthquake, hardly comparable to the recent event. The glass rattled in one of our cabinets and I had been trying to walk at the time. I remember grabbing onto a low wall to steady myself and looking up to see my husband and son also aware of the movement. My son had just learned about what to do in the event of an earthquake at school and immediately dived under the dining table saying Drop, Cover, Hold! I was more surprised than frightened. It passed very quickly.

The recent 7.8 earthquake was a timely reminder to take heed of warnings and get ourselves prepared. I always have 10 litre containers of water stored in the garage and keep tinned food which would probably last us for about 3 days, and we have a portable gas bbq and cylinder, but the poor people of Kaikoura, a small seaside town on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island were cut off from would-be rescuers due to the damage to roads in and out of the town. They are simply impassable. Helicopters have been airlifting in supplies of water, chemical toilets and emergency supplies as all sources of running water were so severely damaged that they were initially cut off. Sewerage lines were damaged and the navy were despatched to rescue stranded tourists and locals wanting to leave by sea. Kaikoura is world-renowned for it’s crayfish delicacy and the seasonal whale watching.

The most basic Emergency items we should all try to have on hand are things like:

  • 3 days worth of water, approximately 3 litres per person per day
  • 3 days worth of tinned or dried food
  • torches with fresh packs of batteries
  • a battery operated radio with fresh packs of batteries
  • rain/wind-proof jackets
  • blankets or sleeping bags
  • toilet paper, plastic bags, breathing masks
  • nappies, wet-wipes and formula if you have little ones
  • and of course, a first aid kit

Have you got your Household Emergency Plan sorted? Does everyone in your family know what needs to happen and where to find supplies? Realistically, you may not all be together if/when a disaster strikes, or even at home, and Heaven forbid, you may not all survive, so it is a very good idea to make sure that every member of your family is well versed in case disaster strikes.

New Zealand has a great website called www.getthru.govt.nz which has check-lists and advice for all manner of emergencies. I particularly like this page as it includes the above emergency items and many more.

Another good NZ website for advice on what to do during an earthquake (the Drop, Cover and Hold mantra), can be found here: Drop, Cover, Hold

No-one wants to be an alarmist, but for all of us living in a country with 40+ volcanoes, being part of the Pacific Ring of Fire and having a number of fault lines run through the South Island, we are foolish if we don’t get ourselves at least a little prepared.

It’s at times like this that I marvel at human nature. There are those who literally give the shirts off their backs to help others in need, and then there are those opportunistic disgraceful thugs who steal from abandoned homes and families in the process of losing everything and having their lives turned upside down. Karma people. Karma! No-one is immune.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. Get prepared while you still can.

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