1.3 million Kiwis take part in ShakeOut

At Spreydon School's new entrant class, Mihana Hof (5) and Chloe Palmer (6) practice the Drop, Cover and Hold drill. Photo / NZ Herald
At Spreydon School's new entrant class, Mihana Hof (5) and Chloe Palmer (6) practice the Drop, Cover and Hold drill. Photo / NZ Herald

A quarter of the country registered to dive under their desks in a national earthquake drill this morning, but despite the popularity of the exercise there are no plans to make it an annual event, Civil Defence says.

More than 1.3 million New Zealanders including almost 2000 schools and nearly as many businesses registered for today's 9.26am ShakeOut, which carried the message `drop to your knees, cover your head and neck, crawl under a sturdy table, and hold onto it during the tremor'.

Several businesses around the country took the procedure seriously, but in central Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch there was little immediate evidence of what became the country's largest earthquake drill at 9.26am.

The drill's effectiveness was immediately apparent at schools, said Civil Defence Emergency Management director John Hamilton.

"Schools have done a fantastic job, incredible uptake in schools,'' he said following the drill.

He was aware of a Wellington early childhood centre which did the drill and then marched up a hill to avoid a tsunami.

"I think it's made people more aware of what people can do to be better prepared. I truly believe that it's created discussion and it just needs to be followed up.

"It's not a one-dayer, and we'll take that on board as we'll try keep people up to speed, reminded.''

Mr Hamilton said the shakeout would not become an annual event.

"I don't think we should do it annually, primarily because we have other emergencies that we need to be aware of, so we wouldn't want to overly focus on earthquakes. So every three years perhaps, we haven't made that decision yet, but that's the sort of thing that we'll be thinking about.''

The shakeout idea was born more than a year ago after talking with people in California who had done something similar.

''[We] were quite taken by the results that they got and awareness and preparedness, and through their support we were able to pick up the heart of their programme and modify it to fit New Zealand's circumstances.''

At 9.26am today Christchurch shoppers, walkers, and business people at Cashel Mall barely blinked when the Civil Defence sirens sounded.

Department store, Ballantynes, on the fringe of the ever-decreasing CBD red zone, chose not to take part in the shakeout. Just 86,000 Cantabs did.

Friends, and stay-at-home mums, Meg Ford, 34, and Rebecca Taylor, 35, were two who did not take part today.

"We've had 12,500 aftershocks, or earthquakes, so we know what to do,'' said Mrs Taylor.

"We won't really stop for anything less than a five (magnitude)''.

Mrs Ford said Christchurch was "underwhelmed'' by the drill.

However, Canterbury shake veterans said they were glad for the rest of New Zealand to learn some lessons in how to react when earthquakes strike, and to learn from mistakes people made in February last year.

Wellington's Lambton Quay also did not appear to stop at 9.26am, but those spoken to on the street knew of the drill and said it was good to practise what to do in an earthquake.

In Auckland ANZ National Bank regional administrator Leilani Ledger, 31, bought a handful of whistles to hand out to colleagues to sound the drill.

"It's a bit of fun and frivolity but at the same time it makes you realise the importance of being ready because of Canterbury and stuff,'' she said.

Others were not aware of the drill when questioned on the street.

Many of those who dropped, covered and held for the quake drill tweeted about their experience.

Staff at organisations around the country including Auckland University, the Ministry of Health, Christchurch Art Gallery and Plunket took part and said it had gone smoothly.

Others who made up the 1.3 million people registered, joked about what they found under their desk during the drill.

"Consensus from #ShakeOut is that all NZ cleaners don't vacuum under office desks properly,'' wrote one summing up a number of tweets.

- APNZ

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