The message - drop to your knees, cover your head and neck, crawl under a sturdy table, and hold onto it during the tremor - was played out around the country at 9.26am.

There was an actual earthquake only minutes before the national "Shakeout" earthquake drill today - a small magnitude 2.8 quake striking near Whanganui at 9.21am - providing a reminder of how often earthquakes strike New Zealand.

Quake-hardened Cantabrians were ambivalent about the drill, with most people ignoring it completely.

However, the shake veterans were glad for the rest of New Zealand to learn some lessons in how to react when earthquakes strike.


Christchurch's famous department store, Ballantynes, on the fringe of the ever-decreasing CBD red zone, chose not to enter into the shakeout. Just 86,000 Cantabrians did.

Shoppers, walkers, and business people at Cashel Mall this morning barely blinked when the Civil Defence sirens sounded at 9.26am.

Some were even laughing at the idea that Christchurch people need to practice earthquake drills.

"We've had drills every day for the last two years," said Re:Start director Paul Lonsdale, behind the rejuvenated Cashel Mall.

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.

She also questioned whether it was a good thing for school children to have to take part, given what they've been through since the Canterbury earthquake sequence started on September 4, 2010.

But she accepted it was a positive thing for the rest of New Zealand.

Tony Goulter, 23, unemployed, from New Brighton in Christchurch's eastern suburbs, wasn't aware of the drill.

He shrugged off the sirens as "cops or ambulance maybe" and went about his business.

On February 22, 2011, he was on a bus passing the CTV Building, which collapsed and killed 115 people.

He witnessed another man crushed to death by falling masonry, and had a woman save his life when she pulled him away from other falling rubble.

Mr Goulter said he just wanted other parts of the country to learn from the mistakes people made in February last year.

"Most of us know what to do now in a quake, but we didn't really know last year. If we knew more, maybe we wouldn't have lost so many people.

"So this Shake Out has to be a good thing."


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

Brandon Walker, 39, was aware of the drill and was reminded again earlier this morning when he saw posters displayed at McDonald's.

He did not take part in it, but thought the drill was a good idea. "Anything to avoid panic at the time."

Katherine Garnett, a government worker, jumped under her desk at 9.26am, as did all her colleagues.

"It's good to practise these things because then people are aware of what they need to do."


There was no immediate evidence of the drill at 9.26am on Queen St in central Auckland, however, some businesses were taking it seriously.

ANZ National Bank regional administrator Leilani Ledger, 31, had just bought a handful of whistles that she would hand out to colleagues to sound the drill.

They had missed the 9.26am deadline but would do it at 10am instead, she said.

"We were ready: we had the radio set up so we could hear the siren on ZM, we tested it for loudness this morning, but we turned it on a couple of minutes too late.

"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."

There were posters all over her office, a Civil Defence kit had been prepared, and staff had been talking about what to do in an earthquake, she said.

"We had debate about the whole stop, drop and roll thing ... or is it drop, cover hold?"

University of Auckland student Kristen Human, 19, had never heard of the New Zealand "Shakeout" and had no idea what she would do in the event of an earthquake.

"It's pretty bad really. I live on the 11th floor of an apartment block so I probably wouldn't be alive if an earthquake happened."

GFG group software engineer Kit Bishop, early 60s, said nothing had been announced about the campaign at his work, but he was aware of it.

"I've only seen it on the radio and seen signs on the motorway coming in."

Trust Power customer service representative Tane Bufton, 19, who is holidaying in Auckland from Oamaru, knew about this morning's drill, but didn't actively participate.

"My workers down south are doing it, and people are talking about it on Twitter and Facebook, prepping for it and counting down.

"It raises awareness and makes people think about it, so I think it's a good thing."


Many of those who dropped, covered and held around the country tweeted about their experience, with some making unexpected discoveries.

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

"Shook my desk so it was more realistic,' SAID Bonnie Hartfield said.

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.