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March 22, 2010 | by  | in News |
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Kiwi curiosity could get us killed

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Apparently none of us were good boy scouts

New Zealanders are not prepared for a natural disaster, a recent Statistics NZ survey shows.

The survey finds that only 15 per cent of households are adequately prepared for a disaster. Civil Defence says to be “prepared” is to have an emergency plan and enough food and water for three days.

While 76 per cent of people recognise the need to be prepared for a disaster, very few have taken the necessary precautions. Many people are only partially prepared. They may have food and water but do not have a plan.

This result comes despite the widespread destruction caused by earthquakes in Haiti and Chile. Following the recent Chilean earthquake, New Zealand was issued with a tsunami warning. Civil Defence Minister John Carter says “most people realise these warnings are not issued lightly and went to seek out information… But leaving it until the day might be too late”.

This reflects the survey’s finding that large natural disasters increase people’s awareness of preparation. But such events only cause the statistics to spike and drop again soon after.

There is a perception among some that New Zealanders have developed indifference to civil defence warnings. Carter says “while the authorities were preparing for a tsunami in the wake of the Chile earthquake, some New Zealanders were still not taking the situation seriously or heeding the warnings”.

Some people went to the beaches and harbour following the announcement of tsunami warnings. Michelle Brooker of Wellington City Council (WCC) believes these people gave all Wellingtonians a bad reputation. “Wellingtonians responded really well to the tsunami warnings,” she says.

Brooker believes WCC is doing everything they can to prevent indifference or “tsunami fatigue”. Many people felt all Wellingtonians, not just those on the beach, should have been told about the tsunami warnings. But WCC believes this leads to people not taking the warnings seriously. “As long as we continue warning only the people who are affected there shouldn’t be a problem with tsunami fatigue and people taking the warnings less seriously.”

All New Zealanders need to be prepared for natural disaster. Brooker says students should have an emergency plan for their home and for university. Students also “need to have adequate food and water at their home or hostel that will last for three days.” Such preparations are vital in ensuring survival in a disaster-prone city such as Wellington.

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