Through the earthquakes and aftershocks, look after yourselves and each other

Monday November 14, 2016

14 November 2016, 2.45pm

Now is the time to look after each other as the Hanmer earthquakes affect different people in different ways.

Public Health Specialist Dr Lucy D'Aeth, Chair of the Greater Christchurch Psychosocial Committee says particularly in the North Canterbury areas around Hanmer, Kaikoura and Waiau there are people cut off in towns with broken homes, without power and water.

"For the most affected communities, the priorities are the most basic things – sharing clean water, food, and checking in on neighbours.  There will be those who need support to dig a long-drop/outside toilet, or tidy up damaged properties. 

"Helping others and giving your time can make a big difference, whether it's helping someone with a big clean up job or spending time talking to people about how they are doing," says Dr D'Aeth. 

It's normal to feel a range of emotions, so expect those around you to be coping differently, she says.

"Our brains react chemically to earthquakes – releasing adrenaline which can cause us to feel shaky, queasy or on-edge and make it hard for us to concentrate.  This response is our body's alarm system – it is your body telling you to be alert and ready for action.

"These emotions should calm – but they can take longer to do so if the aftershocks continue for some time."

There are things you can do to help you feel better.  Although it is difficult, try and keep your routine as normal as you can – especially when around children who will take their lead from you.

As part of the response to these earthquakes, additional staff have been rostered on to the Canterbury Support Line following last night's 7.5 quake.

The free phone line (0800 777 846) is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and can arrange appropriate support for people affected by the earthquake.

Public Health Information for Hurunui and Kaikoura residents:

  • Your council will be advising whether you need to boil or treat water from taps and tankers before drinking, brushing teeth or using in food preparation. Bringing water to the boil is sufficient to kill bugs. Water needs to be boiled even if the smell or taste of chlorine is present. If you cannot boil water, treat it by adding 1 teaspoon of household bleach per 10 litres of water and leave for 30 minutes (i.e just under 1/4 tsp of bleach for a two litre container)

  • Waterways may be contaminated with sewage. Avoid contact with rivers, sea water, ponds, puddles or other surface water. Do not swim, paddle, fish, or gather shellfish or any other food from oceans and rivers.

  • If your toilet is not working bury human waste (faeces, poo, vomit etc) in your garden or wrap it well in paper or plastic and put it in your red bin for collection.  Add some sawdust or kitty-litter to neutralise odour. Wash your hands immediately after dealing with any human waste.  See Disposing of Sewage below.

  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitiser after toileting, and before and after eating or preparing food.

  • If you are sick, try to limit contact with other people, do not go to work and do not prepare food for anyone.  Call your GP if you require medical attention. It is important you address your health concerns early with your general practice team.  If it's an emergency call 111.

  • Take care with food - if there have been extended power cuts, use chilled food first, then frozen, then canned, and lastly packaged food.  If unsure about the safety of food due to lack of chilled or frozen storage, do not eat it.

 

If you have been advised not to use your toilet, or you have no running water:

Toilet systems are likely to be affected by a disaster through broken pipes, flooding of the sewerage system, or breakdown of the pumping machinery.

Human waste can spread disease.

During an emergency

You may need a makeshift toilet if your toilet cannot be used. Avoid overflows, flooding or ponding caused by broken sewerage lines, and contact your local council, public health unit or civil defence sector post for advice on diverting overflowing sewerage.

How to make a temporary toilet

  • If your toilet is still intact, put a strong plastic bag under your toilet seat to collect waste, alternatively line a bucket or rubbish bin with a strong, leak-proof plastic bag.

  • Put half a cup of liquid bleach in the bag.

  • Make a seat from two planks of wood or use a toilet seat on top of the container.

  • Keep the bin completely covered when not in use, to prevent attracting flies.

  • Tie the top of the bag firmly when full and place it inside another bag.

  • Dig a hole well away from the vegetable garden and downhill from any water source and bury the bag.

  • Make sure the bag is well covered with dirt.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly after going to the toilet or handling human waste.

How to make a long-drop toilet

  • Dig a hole up to one metre deep well away from the vegetable garden and any water source.

  • Make a seat out of planks of wood.

  • Cover the waste properly with dirt after each use.

  • Throw in a little garden lime, insecticide or disinfectant to reduce smells and flies.

  • Use the long-drop until it is full to within 300mm of ground level.

  • Cover completely with soil and dig a new long-drop.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly after going to the toilet or handling human waste.

From the Ministry of Health resource "Protecting Your Health in an Emergency".

ENDS

Page last reviewed: 14 November 2016
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