Our earthquakes – a learning experience!


So this has been our lives this past 5 days starting with a 5.7 earthquake last Friday morning. This chart shows what has been happening out at sea 15 – 25 kms away from our home (we are just 5 mins drive inland at the top of the South Island) The biggest was 6.5 though I have seen it charted as 6.7 – 6.9.

Roger and I have often discussed how we would do in an emergency, we’d be prepared, right? Wrong!! In some ways better than some, in many ways nothing prepares you for reality but the reality of being unprepared in lots of ways you hadn’t considered (and in the event it turned out to be worse than this recent activity) Our quakes have not been nearly as bad as our Christchurch ones of 3 years ago and many there are still in substandard housing not sorted by insurance companies, no sewerage etc. So I thought I would share some of the things we have learned.

Power: Our power was off for only 4 hours but we were very aware if another big earthquakes hit (or still does) we could lose it for a prolonged period, we have two freezers holding alot of food supply. My cell phone was needing to be charged before this hit and lasted just 2 quick phone calls and a few texts before it went flat….but one of the first things I did was to quickly write out everyone’s phone numbers that I may need which was important but really cursed myself for not having them written somewhere else but on my phone, neither of us has a car charger for our phones!! We had dinner cooking at the time and finished it off on top of the stove – we had always thought we would be fine cooking this way in an emergency, the reality is 2 people we know lost their chimneys, older than ours but it could happen. We need an alernative. We had torches, batteries and candles in the corner of the dining room for emergencies, thank God!!

Food: Alot of our food is frozen and I have commented before that we realised this could be a problem in an emergency. Better to have it than not as it is a supply but also a problem of large amounts spoiling. I was glad to have quite a few soups frozen for ready meals if needed but few other actual meals and no one really wants to be trying to cook when you’re in shock and your house is still moving (if you actually had an apetite….or children). Why hadn’t I bought milk powder!!?? Our local shop reopened on the second day after but we were getting low on milk. Some of the bottling fell off the shelves even though I had pushed them to the back after the first one, and food fell out of the pantry and some smashed – alot to be said for tinned food (of which I had little and plastic jars) We had to take alot off and put on the floor before Roger could nail up battens to protect the rest (we had never ever thought of this)  and this done with broken glass lying everywhere because there is no time to clean up while rushing around trying to protect whats left.

Water: We had bottles of water in the freezer and a 20 litre container full for emergencies, not needed so far but a relief to know we have that.

Communication: Already covered the cell phones but we had kept an old landline phone in case of emergency, one that didn’t need power and we could still use this this time, even though we had problems with connection for the first 1/2 hour. We were so glad to have that. Cell phone lines were jammed and we couldn’t get through to family in Wellington the other centre hit which was nerve wracking for the first two hours. My son who lives 25 km from us had been able to connect with a family member via Facebook after a while. Roger went and sat in the car to hear the radio, something that unnerved me alone in a shaking house but men seem to need to know the news!! I won’t be so slack about charging my phone from now on.

Road Services: My son wanted us to go there but there is a large hill between us that we considered wouldn’t be safe travelling, which was wise as this had slips on. Also in the event of a tidal wave we are in a better position than town. I had always, stupidly, felt confident that Roger only works 5 minutes from home in the event of an emergency….there is a bridge over a river between here and work and this now has a sign on saying “Uneven surface”. I could be alone for a long time, or he and that’s the reality.



These that I pictured early on in my blog are no longer and many other things. Not enough to bother with insurance processes and excesses but we had to take everything off walls and shelves. There was also alot of glass lying around and we both needed to find our shoes in the dark and be careful the dogs didn’t step on anything. In every room there was broken glass or china. A friend of mine that collects antiques went through after the first one and blu-tacked everything to the shelves (and took stuff down) just in case and this worked when the larger one hit, she had less breakages than us even though her home is full of precious things.

Pets: One dog is oblivious to anything and the other is wound up like anything. He hears the quakes coming, stops dead in his tracks then panics….and no bull here, the last few he has been standing under a doorway (he’s been watching us).

Community: Everyone checks on their neighbours …you hope, we all did. But I took our rubbish to the dump yesterday and the elderly guy who runs it (and who lives alone) told me he was terrified and felt sick all the time and there was nowhere he felt he could go to be with anyone afterwards, he now has our address and an assurance to please just come here anytime. Poor guy, and he wouldn’t be the only one like this.

Petrol, money etc: We have relations in Christchurch who told us later one of the things they do now is not let their petrol go lower than 1/4 tank and they keep some money in their wallet just in case because they couldn’t get either for ages after theirs. Did we learn from them, nope! My car was on empty and neither of us had cash on us. You just never know what’s around the corner and preparedness isn’t just all about food and candles.

Stress: For some of us (me!) anxiety levels go through the roof and you don’t quite function as well you thought you would. You can’t sleep, jump at every little tremor whether caused by quake, wind or neighbouring car lol, your senses become acute and you become weary and worried. And that’s ok because many others do too and it’s natural. I’ve gone through periods of practical doing and thinking to huge anxiety about the 19 % chance of another severe one. I now find it best just to keep busy to take my mind off things, sitting thinking just creates anxiety and I try to think of the 81% chance of it will just return to normal now 🙂


12 thoughts on “Our earthquakes – a learning experience!

  1. Jo says:

    I do hope you all stay safe, and cleanup goes well. I grew up in an earthquake prone zone, and the scary thing is that, really, you don’t feel safe anywhere. Thanks for the reminders on being prepared, and all the best for recovery..


  2. I have had you on my mind and am glad to hear you are safe. I would be in a world of trouble if one hit close to me at that strength as nothing here is built to withstand a quake. I am very reliant on electricity and there is nothing I can do about that. My building was constructed with concrete block which is stronger than some homes around here, but poses another potential problem as the block would cause more damage falling than a stick home.

    I am sorry you lost so many of your treasured pieces, but what a wonderful thing you did welcoming the elderly gentleman to your home. The elderly, especially alone, are very much at risk of dehydration and other health issues should they be trapped for any length of time.


    • Disappointing to be left with lids for pretty jars no longer with us but never mind, not important 🙂
      I guess the thing is to be prepared for the circumstances given your own circumstances, ready food, water, torches etc. I definately feel safer in the lounge at front of house rather than the bedroom over the concrete block rooms downstairs (we are on split level home)
      I felt so sorry for the poor guy, there’s so many no one knows about who suffer on their own ay.


      • I briefly lived in Los Angeles where earthquakes are frequent and learned real quick to be near a doorway. Here, I haven’t figured out the best place to stand, maybe in the open field would be the best where a falling building would miss me, as long as the earth didn’t split under me. I’m so sorry about your jars.


      • Jars are replaceable 😉 I expect it won’t take long to fill the spaces with dust collectors of a different type…but thanks 🙂

        It’s hard to know where is safest, there’s security in a building but I know the vineyard across the road felt a pretty good option to me after hearing the walls rattle so.


  3. Oh heavens so glad you and your family are ok. I heard about the earthquakes and aftershocks. I guess you learn to get a box full of survival things ready at hand. Best wishes from Western Australia xox


  4. I guess it has made you think about these important issues though Wendy so that would be a positive outcome from all of this. Hugs all over again from Tassie.


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