It's become a bit of a hard realisation here in New Zealand... when we least expect it, mother nature decides to have a bit of a tectonic dance party, an earthquake. Whilst trying to keep this as lighthearted as possible and without terrifying any of you so much that you decide not to visit this beautiful country, it really is something that has become a common occurence around here recently! The best and only thing to do in the now is just to be prepared, whether it happens during your travels or not. Fortunately after any disaster there are improvements to knowledge and therefore also to preparation and prevention of damage.
Most of the earthquakes we have had in some parts of the country lately have just been tremors, or little shakes known as aftershocks. Since the big earthquake in Christchurch back in February 2011 there have been many aftershocks even still to this day in the beautiful garden city. It is still an amazing place to visit and you will still find lots of tourism through the area, although some people are still a bit wary about visiting. You should not let it stop you exploring all corners of our beautiful New Zealand. There are simply a few ways you can find your bearings and keep peace of mind when it comes to potentially experiencing an earthquake whilst overseas.
Ask your hostel reception what preparations they have in place in event of a natural disaster. You will be happy to know that lots of hostels are ready for any such events. The main rule during an earthquake is DROP, COVER AND HOLD. Meaning drop to the ground, make sure you are covered by something sturdy such as tables or furniture and hold on/stay there until it's over. You can identify safe places around the hostel for your own peace of mind. There are always security evacuations in place as well at hostels. Reception team leaders will print off guest lists and staff need to round up everyone in the hostel and get everyone to a safe meeting point outside, making sure everyone is ok, you can easily spot the staff as they'll be wearing high-vis jackets and often a hardhat with warden written on it. These notices are generally posted up around hostels/in lifts.
Some things you can always ensure are done to help you in an event like this is to make sure your cell phone is always charged. You may need to eventually make phones calls to family and loved ones. In the event of a big earthquake though if you can manage texting rather than calling, that makes it easier for other people to get through to emergency services if their cases are more severe. The last thing you want to be doing is trying to track down where you can plug in your phone charger. If you are in a hostel, use the stairs rather than elevators. Check on your hostel room mates, make sure they are ok. If there is any damage make sure you have photographic evidence, sprinkler systems and extinguishers can automatically be activated which can cause damage to peoples belongings also. Insurance can cover this. First aid is always available in hostels so make sure to ask for it. Again, not to freak anybody out but in reality this can happen anywhere in the world at anytime.
If you happen to be outdoors or even driving, make sure you pull over to a clear location or move to higher ground. If you are outside near trees, buildings, street lights and powerlines, make sure to move no more than a few steps away from where you are, proceed to drop, cover and hold. These are just a few ways you can keep safe. Lots of people keep emergency food and equipment stocked, but I guess if you're a backpacker food is food and you will eat it regardless! Every little thing can help though. So there you have it, just a few tips you can use whilst traveling in the event of an earthquake - be safe and look after yourself and your friends! Mostly you will make it out unscathed with one hell of a story to tell people back home.
For information on earthquakes in New Zealand and any official updates check out http://geonet.org.nz/ which has all the information you need to know about preparing for earthquakes and any recent tremors felt in the country. Or check out #EQNZ on twitter.