Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The ShakeOut

Today was the New Zealand ShakeOut, a national earthquake drill. At 9:29am, we were to drop, cover and hold. Around 1.3 million Kiwis took part. We took part at home, which confused the dogs, but which was otherwise fine.

There are several things that I thought worked well: A couple minutes before the start, Civil Defence Tweeted to get ready. At 9:29am, the radio station NewstalkZB and TVNZ’s TV One both played the Civil Defence emergency sound (for a few seconds). And—that was it.

Here’s what could have been better: A status update on Facebook, either like Twitter or as it began. Last week, Auckland Civil Defence launched an iPhone App that, among other things, can transmit emergency warnings. It was silent, missing a great opportunity to test the system in real life.

Civil Defence says they’re not planning on making this an annual event, and that’s quite possibly a good idea, since having them too often might make people as complacent as having no drills at all. But when they do another drill, here’s what I’d like to see:
  • Use of social media as if a real emergency was happening: They would probably need a disclaimer, but they should send out emergency notices as if the threat was real.
  • Also, they should activate emergency alert on the phone app (hopefully they’ll have an Android version by then, too). They really need to test it as if there was a large-scale emergency because we don’t want it failing if there ever is one.
  • Pick a better date. This year, the event was at 9:26am on September 26—9:26, 9/26, which would be catchy were it not for one thing: New Zealand writes its dates the other way around (26 September, not September 26; weirdly, 26/9 is the 269th day of the year…). So, they had to resort to the convoluted “ 9:26-26:9”. I think they should pick something easier to remember, like 10:10am on October 10) 10:10 on 10/10. I may be in the minority on that one, though.
Still, the effort raised awareness, which is always a good thing. So I think it was a good first effort, but we have to keep awareness going. The “Get Ready, Get Thru” site has great resources to help people prepare.

And, yes, I did feel a little silly crawling under my desk at 9:26am.

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