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Discredited earthquake advice circulating

Media Release for Immediate Use 5 June 2008

Discredited earthquake advice circulating in Hawke’s Bay

An email promoting incorrect advice about earthquake safety has been causing concern for residents and Civil Defence staff in Hawke’s Bay as well as nationally.

This week, the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management, the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering, the Earthquake Commission (EQC) and GNS Science have spoken out against the email, which promotes advice sometimes known as the “triangle of life”. They have done so because the email discourages people from taking what is usually the safest option, which is sheltering under desks or in doorways.

Hawke's Bay Regional Council’s emergency management coordinator says that she has talked to a number of local people confused by the misleading email and wanting to confirm what they should do.

“The best action to take in an earthquake is still the same ‘drop, cover and hold’ technique which is sound advice is based on knowledge of New Zealand buildings and earthquakes,” says Lisa Pearse, Emergency management coordinator.

“A number of local people who have received this email have contacted us as they have been confused by it - and that potentially puts them at risk.

“Most worrying is that we have had enquiries from schools. They definitely should be teaching children the agreed New Zealand safety advice which the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management provides in education kits and on their website.”

The drill practised by schoolchildren will protect people in most earthquakes - drop, take cover under a sturdy piece of furniture, and hold on, or shelter against an interior wall away from windows, bookcases and other furniture that could fall.

An earthquake advice fact sheet www.civildefence.govt.nz has the agreed New Zealand advice about what to do during an earthquake. It is based on international best practice.

The misleading email includes the dangerous statement that “people who get under objects, like desks or cars, are always crushed”.

However in New Zealand, the building standards are very stringent in the area of earthquake safety. Buildings, both new and old, are required to meet these high standards.

“Identify safe places in your home, workplace or school before an earthquake - places within a few steps that are strong enough to shelter in or under. When the shaking starts you know what to do and can respond quickly,” says Lisa Pearse.

People can get more information from www.hbemergency.govt.nz which is the local Hawke’s Bay civil defence website that will be a main source of information in any disaster. Local councils have printed information that you can ask for as well or look inside the cover of the Yellow Pages for basic advice.

People can also get information on www.civildefence.govt.nz .

ends

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