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Earthquake Scenario

There are about 14,000 earthquakes in and around New Zealand each year. Most are small, but about 150 are big enough to be felt.

The reason we witness so many earthquakes is because New Zealand straddles two of Earth's major tectonic plates, the Australian and the Pacific. As these plates collide and move past each other the region in between, our country, is squashed, sheared and pulled apart - causing an earthquake.

Scientists say it is only a matter of time before the big one hits.

What to do in an earthquake

A damaging earthquake can occur at any time. Here are some tips that may save lives and prevent unnecessary distress.

Before an earthquake...

  • Secure heavy furniture to the wall or floor
  • Put heavy items near floor level
  • Put strong catches on cupboard doors
  • Check that your chimney is secure
  • Secure your hot water cylinder
  • Check your house is well secured to its foundations

When the shaking begins...

Drop, take cover, and hold on. Move only a short distance to a nearby safe place. Stay indoors until the shaking stops and you're sure it's safe to go outside. Stay away from windows, chimneys, and shelves containing heavy objects.

  • If you're in bed, hold on and stay there, and protect your head and body with a pillow and blankets.
  • If you're outdoors, find a clear spot away from buildings trees and power lines. Drop to the ground.
  • If you are in a car, slow down and drive to a clear place (as above). Stay in the car until the shaking stops.
  • If you are in a lift, stop it at the nearest floor and get out.
  • Do not look for your pets until the shaking stops.

When the shaking stops...

  • Protect yourself from further danger by putting on long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, sturdy shoes, and work gloves.
  • Check those around you and offer help if necessary.
  • Put out small fires and eliminate fire hazards. Evacuate the building if you are unable to control the fire. Turn off the gas if you think it's leaking.
  • Listen to the radio for instructions from Civil Defence. Some people may need to be evacuated.
  • After a big earthquake expect aftershocks - they can go on for weeks or even months. Each time you feel one, drop, take cover, and hold on.
  • Check your home or workplace for damage. Get everyone out if the building is unsafe.
  • Don't go sightseeing - you'll add to the congestion and hamper relief efforts.
  • Don't touch downed power lines - treat all power lines as alive.

Earthquake Trivia

What is the biggest quake in New Zealand in the last 150 years?
Wairarapa, 1855 correct
New Plymouth, 1923
Nelson, 1941
Rotorua, 1912

How many known active geological faults are there in New Zealand?
300 correct

How many aftershocks were recorded after the Magnitude 7.1  Fiordland quake of 22 August 2003?
About 6000 correct
About 60
About 600
About 160

Does land go up, or down, or move sideways in an earthquake?
Up only
Down only
Sideways only
Can do all three correct

How many people died in the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake?
256 correct

During which season do most quakes occur?
None - quakes are not affected by weather or time of year correct

What does the Richter scale measure?
The amount of energy released at the epicentre of an earthquake correct
The amount of swaying at the top of the Auckland Skytower
The amount of ground shaking 1km from an earthquake
The volume of dog barking during an earthquake.

Can the ground open up and swallow buildings during a quake?

Can faults link up to rupture the entire length of New Zealand?

Can scientists predict the precise timing of earthquakes?

Can the Moon cause earthquakes?