Being a Wellingtonian has its perks -although the weather often isn't one of them. This said, I'm now discovering, like so many other Wellingtonians, the joys of living in a seismic zone every time the house shakes (which at the moment is hourly).
Perhaps the most worrying thing about earthquakes is that they're completely random. You can never predict when they'll happen, and worse still, there's no way of knowing if a shake is just a tremor, or the big one that'll level Wellington, killing thousands. Most frustrating of all however is a feeling of complete powerlessness. When the shaking begins, there's nothing you can do but hold on and just hope things don't get any worse.
Since Sunday's shake up, there's been to be a near endless stream of advice around bottled water and a bunch of other useful quake survival tips. So far however no-one seems to have even given survival gadgets any real thought.
Here's my quake survival gadget list:
Let there be light: Dynamo Flashlight
Knowing my luck, If and when the big one comes the probability is high that a) it'll happen at night, and b) it'll knock out the electricity which will of course mean that c) any batteries I have in my flashlight will be dead.
Rather than rely on batteries I opted for a crank-powered flashlight that I bought not long after the Christchurch quakes. The flashlight is surprisingly bright thanks to 3 LED's and 1 minute of cranking generates 30 minutes of light. Equally handy, it also has a built in radio so I can stay on top of civil defence messages.
Staying in touch: Handheld radios
Another learning from the Christchurch quake was that the phone networks are probably going to be down for days. Staying touch with my significant other should the unthinkable happen is of course the top priority, so I opted for a pair of small digital UHF walkie- talkies.
My walkie of choice is the Uniden UH720SX-2NB which can crank out 2 Watts and sports a ruggedised design which should survive the odd shake. With 77 Channels, the UH720SX-2NB has a maximum range of up to 10km, making them ideal for use in a compact area such as central Wellington.
Should there be no electricity (and in a big quake this is a given) keeping ones gadgetry up and running needn't become a total mission impossible thanks to Solio, a small solar powered charger that's compatible with a whole bunch of different gadgets. Thanks to a pre-charged battery, the Solio stays topped up via a series of fold out photovoltaic cells that resemble flower petals, stick it in a sunny spot and you'll have the means to keep most gadgets juiced.
With numerous gadgets needing charging, multiple charging options is also a must. It is precisely for this reason that the HTC battery pack gains a place in my emergency kit. Originally designed to charge a mobile phone, it consists of a small battery that can be charged and then in turn used to charge up other USB charged widgets.
I also keep my trusty Nokia windows phone packed. Even though the odds are high that any mobile network will either be overloaded or simply out of action, The Nokia windows phone is useful in that its maps app allows me to download maps for offline use so no mobile reception is needed.
Taking photos of the aftermath of a big shake may be an interesting photography exercise, but a good digital camera should really come into its own before anything starts shaking. Taking photos covering each room plus the outside of your home will make dealing with EQC and your insurance company just a little easier.
Gadgetry aside, there's also quite a few other low-tech must haves. During the Christchurch quake people found that if the power went out (which it often did), cordless phones didn't work. Because of this, keeping an old school corded phone makes a loads of sense as they draw their power from the landline network.
Another low-tech gem is a notebook and pencil. Keeping the contact details of friends and family members on ones smartphone may be convenient, but if your mobile phone is lost, broken or simply flat, you may find yourself in bit of a pickle when trying to make contact. Speaking of which, another idea is to have a plan. If there is a cataclysmic quake, having an agreed meeting point for your family so everyone knows where to gather also makes a whole lot of sense.
Last but by no means least, give your pets a thought. During the Christchurch quake, many pets freaked out and bolted. Even if they were found, re-uniting them with their owners was at best a nightmarish process.
Getting your pet chipped means that should it decide to run for the hills when the ground starts shaking, the SPCA or any other animal welfare organisation should be able to trace it back to you should they find it. Also if your pet does stay put, consider a self-filling water-bowl such as the pet oasis.