Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drill 2015 with Taika and I

Do you know what to do if the earth shakes suddenly? In New Zealand, you’ve got to be prepared. Last Thursday was the perfect time to refresh our memory, as it was the International ShakeOut Day of Action. We’ve been all encouraged to take part in a Great ShakeOut Earthquake drill at 9.15 am, New Zealand time: Let’s DROP, COVER and HOLD!

Kiwi director Taika Waititi gave us some tips, and I’ll share my experience of this bizarre action with you.

Time to wobble around a bit with Taika

Beloved Wellingtonian filmmaker Taika Waititi (Boy, What We Do in The Shadows) presents the Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drill in this hilarious video:

As Taika Waititi reminds it, earthquakes are the kind of things that occur without any warning. As we cannot be sure that the earth would shake and tremble, let’s fake it!

That’s the whole concept of the International ShakeOut Day of Action. New Zealand was the first country to take part at 9.15 am, then we’ve been followed by Japan, the United States and many other earthquake-prone countries.

You can find the list and more info on the international website here:

Earthquake Awareness and Preparedness

My personal experience on earthquake:

So far as my personal experience on earthquakes goes, I felt the earth trembling in Nice, last year, when an earthquake with an intensity of 5.2 occurred in the French Alps.

The seismic waves reached my town as I was working at night on my desk. It was so sudden – a split second – that I convinced myself, it was an irrational sensation. Only one of my journalist friends made me realize it had been an earthquake, when she rang me to collect my impressions for the regional news.

I feel much more concerned about these unpredictable natural phenomena since I’m in the land of the Middle Earth, also known as the Land of the trembling earth 😉 .

In New Zealand, the risk is real: a 5.8 earthquake happened last Monday. Even if we didn’t really feel it, I had to be ready to possible aftershocks. The Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drill arrived just on time.

“Wellington? Don’t go!”

By the way, when I arrived in New Zealand, a few of my Aucklander friends – one of them is an earthquake engineer – advised me against living in Wellington: he says, an earthquake as devastating as the 2011 Christchurch one is expected soon.

You can imagine, that I’ve never told this to my Wellingtonian friends, they would say, it’s just another stupid Jafa’s thought! (Read “Just Another Fucking Aucklander”)

2013 Seddon Earthquake Damaged Wellington City and suburbs

Another good friend of mine is a Safety Manager in a factory near Wellington. She stills remembers vividly the 2013 Seddon Earthquake which caused moderate damage in Wellington City and suburbs – the quake blew out windows, cracked concrete and swayed buildings. All computers, tables and other movable objects were upside down in her factory, most of them had been broken, of course…

Nadège was very engaged by the Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drill as she is responsible for her workmates’ lives! This year, she organised the big evacuation drill in her factory, and she encouraged me to go in the streets to watch people Drop, Cover & Hold.

So, of course, I did! Here is my adventure in detail:

Sally Met Welly

Countdown to the Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drill

On Thursday October 15, I set my alarm clock at 8 am. I would never miss the opportunity to immortalize people in the “drop, cover and hold posture”.

8:50 am: Here I am, wandering along the streets of Wellington’s CBD, observing carefully everybody around. I have to find the perfect target to chase until he/she/they drop(s) on the floor to execute the appropriated moves. Who will I pick? My eyes stop on a woman builder upon a ladder: it could be the perfect target, what if she runs off the stairs at 9:15 am? Or, how about filming the people waiting at the bus stop? There are many: the more they are, the greater fun to watch!

9:00: Two buses picked all the people up. I’m afraid I have to change my plans.

9:05: The perfect prey is in front of my eyes: a group of businesswomen on their way to work! Nothing’s more amusing than seeing a woman with a skirt suit, shiny tights and high heels going down on all fours and faking an earthquake… Sweet, I’m chasing them, now.

9.12: Still following them. These women walk pretty fast with their high heels! I take off my phone from my pocket, I centre their backs and I keep walking, holding my phone on my chest. My heart beats faster. I know the time approaches.

Imagine me at that particular moment, with no make-up and my morning face, filming strangers with my phone kept upon my chest. My preys are as innocent as a lamb; they don’t seem to notice me. Yet, I’m not as discreet as a tuatara because I notice some people giving me side-glances. I keep walking and start to whistle, pretending to be entirely normal.

9:13: time goes on and on and on….

9:14: One minute before the “drop, cover and hold” posture! My eyes are focused on the high heels!

9:15: . . . Nothing… No siren, no woman with high-heels on the ground, simply nothing!!

9: 16, 9:17… STILL NOTHING has happened! I can’t believe it. I was expecting the howl of a firefighter siren, a fake quake activated by simulator, some kind of incredible and funny event. But nothing! No results. I’ve been so disappointed that I didn’t even hold the posture myself, being the only person feeling deeply concerned by this action.

9:20: Now my preys walk faster, they want to be at work on time; in cafés, people are sipping their coffee as nothing else has been planned; joggers are running without slowing down. Have all these people decided to ignore the Earthquake ShakeOut Drill?

9:25: After staying bewildered for more than 15 minutes, I finally decide to admit defeat and to turn back.

My thoughts at 9:30: Maybe I should have stayed near the female builder on the ladder? What if she had been the only one playing the game?

9:40: Back home with a long face. To top it all, my Italian flatmates who can read the disappoint on my face, question me, “What have you been doing, Edith?” I explain them the whole thing with passion, but their only answer is a flabbergasted look…

I end up dropping, covering and holding to show them more explicitly. “You’ve been praying with Muslims?, they answer me. Oh language barrier and misunderstandings!


“You’ve been praying with Muslims?, they answer me.

9:41: THAT’S TOO MUCH FOR ME! I need a coffee and a dance to forget the unsuccessful drill. After all, the Shakeout sounds like the name of a dance, isn’t it, Taika?

                                                                                                                                             Sally Welly



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