Schools and businesses among more than 1.2 million signed up for first of government's 'shakeout' exercises.

More than 1.2 million people have signed up to take part in New Zealand's first earthquake "shakeout" to test disaster readiness.

Almost 2000 schools and nearly as many businesses will join the Government-organised nationwide event which warns people what to do if a quake strikes.

The message is to drop to your knees, cover your head and neck and get under a sturdy table and hold on to the shelter during an earthquake.

The first shake- out is at 9.26am tomorrow.


Signs publicising the event have been up on motorways throughout the country.

Rochelle Manning, an associate principal at Meadowbank Primary School in Auckland, said they were taking part because they believed it was important for children to know what to do during a quake.

She said: "We have got some earthquake tremor noises which we are going to play through the PA system to make it more realistic, and when the teachers shout 'drop' the children will drop to their knees, get under the table and then hold on to the shelter.

"We haven't had any earthquakes in Auckland but you never know what is going to happen. The people in Christchurch had no idea those shakes were coming.

"We signed up because we want to make sure the children know what to do if it happened.

"We had a principal from Christchurch move her family up here after the shakes for a couple of terms and she did some talks telling us what it was like in a real-life situation. The practice is really going to help so our children know exactly what to do."

Mrs Manning said the school had put together a plan of action in case of an earthquake which included making sure all the children were safe and being picked up by relatives.

Vince Cholewa, public information manager at the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management, urged everyone in New Zealand to take part in the exercise.

"This is the first nationwide shake- out event we have organised and the response has been overwhelming. People need to know what to do if an earthquake hits and this gets you thinking about the aftermath as well.

"The three steps are very simple and it's great that as many people as possible take part and know what to do if this happens."

Hospital pulls plug for a day

A community hospital in Waikato is turning off its power and water for 24 hours to find out what it would be like in a civil emergency.

Staff and patients at Te Aroha Community Hospital will take part in the nationwide shakeout event from 9.26am tomorrow, and then find out what it would be like for real with no power, water or working toilets.

Chief executive Nikki Close said she had had a civil defence emergency plan for 18 years.

"It's going to be a challenge. We will be taking part in the shakeout and then from the time of that all our power, water and generators will be switched off.

"My staff thought I was mad when I voiced the idea but now everyone is on board.

"We will be cooking on barbecues and we are bringing in three portaloos ...
"Staff will also be bringing in their families because in the event of an emergency the hospital would be a place where people will come."

Ms Close said some patients would be given fake injuries.

"When I look at what some of my colleagues in Christchurch in the hospitals went through it was terrible," Ms Close said.

"We have no excuse not to be prepared after seeing that and that is exactly what the whole day is going to be about."