14 October 2019

New Zealand’s national earthquake and tsunami evacuation drill is taking place on Thursday 17 October 2019 at 1.30pm. 

We can’t predict an earthquake or tsunami, but we can prepare what we would do if this situation was ever to arise. 

ShakeOut is held across the world to remind people of the right action to take during an earthquake — Drop, Cover and Hold — and to practise a tsunami evacuation if you’re in a coastal area.

While it might not be realistic for staff and patients to physically participate in ShakeOut while at the practice, it’s a timely reminder to think about disaster preparedness.

How to take part 

If your practice does decide to participate, there are lots of ways to start the drill: simply blow a whistle or shout “earthquake drill!”

Drop, Cover and Hold drill for 30–60 seconds:

  • DROP down on your hands and knees.
  • COVER your head and neck (or your entire body if possible) under a sturdy table or desk (if it is within a few steps of you).
  • HOLD on to your shelter (or your position to protect your head and neck) until the shaking stops. If the shaking shifts your shelter around, move with it.

While you are doing the drill, imagine that it is real and what might be happening around you. Think about what you might need to do before a real earthquake happens to help protect yourself.

If you live near a coastal area it’s also a good time move to higher ground and practise what you would do if there was a tsunami.

Civil Defence have produced a range of resources which you may like to use to promote the drill with staff and patients. 

Tips from the General Practice Ownership Guide 

In 2016, the College produced the General Practice Ownership Guide to support members in all aspects of practice ownership. The resource includes advice on disaster preparedness and risk management. 

To prepare for a public health disaster such as a major earthquake or flooding, the resource suggests that practices have a risk-based emergency management plan covering hazards, as well as having a contingency plan.

Check page 63 of the guide for more in-depth information. 

Tips from the Ministry of Health 

To help practices and other health organisations develop an emergency management and contingency plan, the Ministry of Health produced the guidance document: National Health Emergency Plan: A Framework for the health and disability sector. 

Tips from a College Fellow 

Disasters can happen when you least expect them. We recently caught up with College Fellow Dr Francesco Lentini about his experiences of being unexpectedly evacuated from his practice for two months. 

“If someone had said to me, tomorrow you’re moving out of your practice for two months and you can’t take anything with you, I would never have believed them – but that’s exactly what happened,” said Francesco.

“One minute we’re organising a normal day’s consults, and the next we’re sending everyone away and wondering how on earth we could look after our patients. It was surreal.”

Fortunately, after a fairly shocking and upsetting start to the week, what happened next was overwhelmingly positive - a neighbouring practice offered space to work from, allowing the practice to stay in business and keep caring for their patients.

Francesco says he learnt many lessons as a result of this experience: 

  1. Have a cloud-hosted PMS, so that if you have no access to the premises where the server is kept, or the server is permanently damaged, you can continue practising from any location with no disruption. A simple daily back-up is obviously not enough. 
  2. Same for telephones: get a cloud-based telephone system. 
  3. Make sure you have your patients’ contact details up to date, particularly their mobile numbers, as mass text messaging is a useful means of communicating in these circumstances.
  4. Make sure you have an agreement with a local practice or some other place where you could move your operations. This is a requirement of CORNERSTONE®, but it’s important to make sure it is actually a viable option.
  5. Always wear a smile and stay positive. Your staff will rely on the partners for guidance, and panicking does not help.

Read the full story about Francesco’s experience on GP Pulse