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Wellingtonians basic preparation for a major earthquake

Study finds less than half of Wellingtonians have done basic preparations for a major earthquake

A recent survey of Wellington residents has revealed that of 18 earthquake preparedness actions, nearly 85% hadn’t done half of them. The project, carried out by Victoria University of Wellington PhD students Lauren Vinnell and Amanda Wallis, found that the action undertaken by the largest proportion of Wellingtonians was storing water, which 55% of respondents had done. Having stored food was the next highest at 50%, while only 43% had an emergency kit, and 37% had heavy objects stored low.

In addition to this, there were a number of preparedness actions very few respondents had taken. Only 9.7% of people had a water tank, and only around 12% had disaster insurance or had strengthened their house’s foundations. “These findings are worrying for a city with such a long history of identified fault lines,” said Vinnell. Her PhD thesis aims to understand why people in Wellington are and are not preparing, and to use that understanding to get people preparing more. “My work is targeting the base level – the resilience of individuals. If individuals are better able to survive, respond, and recover in a disaster, then communities and cities will have a better chance at doing the same.”

The survey, funded by Resilience to Nature’s Challenges, took place in November 2017 and data was collected from over 700 residents in Wellington City, the Hutt Valley and Porirua.

The main reason people hadn’t taken these actions was simply because they hadn’t thought about it. This was the most cited barrier for 11 out of the 18 actions. The reason respondents hadn’t taken a further five of the actions was that they hadn’t got around to it. Cost was only considered to be a barrier for two of the 18 actions (purchasing a water tank and getting disaster insurance).

Complacency is also an issue. Even if you have taken one or more of these actions to prepare for an earthquake, Vinnell stresses, it is important not to become complacent. “It’s easy to look at these percentages and think ‘at least I’ve done something, that’s more than a lot of people’, and not worry about doing anything else. It’s important to do as much as you possibly can to prepare, regardless of what other people have or haven’t done.”

However, Wellington is considered by civil defence authorities to be a relatively well-prepared city comparatively.

Regional Manager for the Wellington Region Emergency Management Office (WREMO), Jeremy Holmes, says: “While the findings from 2017 were not as good as they could be, the good news is that the total number of people taking action to prepare themselves is increasing each year. We know that even small steps taken in advance of an emergency can go a long way in a real-life event, so we are constantly urging people to do as much as possible to be prepared. Even if you haven’t thought about getting prepared before now, basic preparation doesn’t need to be time consuming and there are easy things you can do right now to increase your level of preparedness.”

“One of the simplest and most important things you can do is to have a conversation with your family or flatmates about what you would do in an emergency if you couldn’t contact each other. You can also use our website to see if you are in a tsunami zone and discuss the route you would walk to evacuate."

“Since this survey was carried out at the end of 2017, we have delivered our Earthquake Planning Guide to every household in the Wellington region. The Guide takes you through the different steps to help you prepare for an earthquake and is now available in 15 different languages to make it easier for those for whom English may not be their first language.”

To request a copy of the Earthquake Planning Guide or find out about how to prepare for an earthquake - including checking if you live or work in a tsunami zone - visit www.getprepared.nz

Resilience to Nature’s Challenges is one of eleven MBIE funded National Science Challenges. It is increasing the resilience of Aotearoa New Zealand by developing new scientific solutions to transform our response, recovery and “bounce-back” from our wide diversity of natural hazards.

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