Friday, July 18, 2008

Entry: What if...?

Internet and computer problems are resolved. Yaay! Send in your entries and I'll get them posted right away.

This essay comes from New Zealander Debbie Roome. It gives us all food for thought.

Here's my contribution to the "What If" theme. It's a factual essay more than a story and true. The brochure is right here, next to me. I will probably adapt this for our local market and send it into the local paper next week.

Tsunamis in Christchurch
by Debbie Roome

What if a tsunami should hit Christchurch? It’s not a subject that received much attention before the 2004 tsunami devastated areas in Asia. However, it is now considered a possibility and a coping strategy has been developed. New Zealand has major fault lines that run throughout the country and also suffers from tornados, floods and severe weather conditions. The Institute of Geological & Nuclear Sciences records about 10,000 to 15,000 earthquakes in New Zealand each year. Of these, about 100 to 150 quakes are big enough to be felt.

Working together, the Police and the Christchurch City Council have produced a brochure entitled “Tsunami. Evacuation information for coastal Christchurch.” I picked up one at the library last week and the contents got me thinking.

Christchurch city is as flat as the proverbial pancake. A paradise for cyclists but a huge concern if a tsunami should hit. The coastal areas are densely inhabited and the New Brighton Spit is especially vulnerable. This is a narrow piece of land with the ocean on one side and a massive estuary on the other. Hundreds of people live here, with the sea almost touching their back yards.

Our home is further inland and presumably beyond the reach of a giant wave. Being double storey, it offers incredible views across the Southern Alps from one side, and the Port Hills on the other. The rest of the landscape unfurls without a ripple or bump in sight.

A tsunami might not reach us here but what if New Zealand sunk a few feet or the ocean rose? I decided to read on and see what the experts recommend. The first point is to develop an evacuation strategy that includes the entire household. There are eight of us and two dogs so that could be rather complex.

Next up is advice on knowing when to evacuate. If the tsunami were to originate from a far distance, it could take 12 to 14 hours to reach our coastline. In this case, police and Civil Defence would evacuate the areas concerned and announcements would be made on various radio stations. If the tsunami originated close by, the only warning would be earth tremors, followed in minutes by the first waves.

This was rather disturbing so I moved on to the next point, preparing a get away kit. This is something we are familiar with as TV ads pound it into us, week after week. “Be prepared.” they say. “New Zealand rests on a fault line.” Apart from that, extreme weather can isolate areas for days, cutting people off from electricity, running water and food. The tsunami check list recommends keeping family documents, licences, passports, insurance papers etc, together in a safe but easily accessible place. Another pack should be prepared containing personal items such as medications, toiletries and warm clothing.

Before evacuating, the brochure advises, check whether neighbours require assistance and leave a telephone book outside your front door to indicate to emergency workers that you have left.

It gave me a funny feeling thinking about all this stuff. What would I do if my family were scattered across the city? Where would 400,000 people go if the water came further inland than expected? What would happen to us if our home was flooded, or even worse, swept away by a tsunami?

I normally read brochures and discard them, but this one I’ve tucked away in a drawer. It’s like a niggle in the back of my mind, a reminder that we often take life for granted. Maybe I’ll pull it out one evening soon and we’ll discuss it as a family and set an evacuation plan in place. I think it would be wise.


Reeva said...

wow this is a great post. I often ask myself 'what if' and would i be prepared in the event of a catastrophe. I'd like to think I have all the tools I need but I'm sure sheer panic would set in and I would fly by the seat of my pants.

Great post. Makes you think.

Barbara said...

This post caught my eye, because like the previous poster, I often wonder what if? My greatest fear that something horrible would happen and I can't get home to my family.

I hope that we all are prepared and that the every man for themselves mentality doesn't take over.