It is frightening to stay in a building immediately after an earthquake but it is much safer than immediately going outside.
An earthquake is not like a fire. You do not have to evacuate a building straight away unless it is showing obvious signs of distress.
When you eventually evacuate, do take your wallet, coat, bag, etc. You are more vulnerable if you leave those things behind. If you have a getaway kit or “go bag”, take it.
An evacuation assembly area in case of fire might not be appropriate after an earthquake. Glass and masonry falling into streets cause terrible casualties. A major after-shock could be tragic for those standing in the street.
Large open areas with no tall buildings, power lines or other hazards immediately adjacent are best. It is often better to remain in your building until a safe route has been found.
The Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management suggests workplaces develop a plan for what to do immediately after a major earthquake, assuming serious damage. In the case of smaller, more common, earthquakes such a plan can be scaled back.
The plan needs to focus on what staff should do and include all of:
Do it together – Discuss arrangements with staff from other organisations in the building. Arrange to check on and support each other during and after an earthquake.
Drop, Cover and Hold – This is what to do during an earthquake. (Staff who are away from their workplace and outside when an earthquake strikes should move no more than a few steps then Drop, Cover and Hold.) For more information see the information sheet Drop, Cover and Hold is still the right action to take (PDF, 133k).
On your floor – After the shaking stops, staff gather together, care for injuries, select a leader.
In your building – Establish what has happened to all your staff. After stairs are checked, if possible, gather in one place.
Gather information – about your building (e.g. are the stairs to the ground level useable) and what is happening around your area and elsewhere in town.
Staff priorities – Family, children, medical needs, essential work etc.
If necessary evacuate – Use previously identified routes to move away from the building. Take bags, phones, wallets and any emergency supplies you have (“go bag”).
If practicable keep a register of staff present, log when they leave and their intentions (e.g. fetch children from day-care, walk home etc.). Arrange to travel in groups.
Disperse – staff can head home or to an alternate workplace. It's best not to all go at once, as transport and roads could be overloaded.
Practise – people need to know what the plan is and practise it.
This Personal Workplace Emergency Plan will help staff plan for an emergency during working hours.
Make a plan with your family that includes what you’ll do if you can’t get home, who can help you and who might need your help.
Business continuity planning, which protects the business ability to keep trading or to recover, is also important but should be kept separate from the immediate response plan to avoid confusion.