Communities most vulnerable to a severe earthquake on the Alpine Fault are being briefed on the potential fallout for their area.
Teams from Civil Defence and GNS scientists are visiting 12 locations around the South Island, many of which could be cut off for weeks, if not longer, in the event of a major rupture.
Murchison resident Adrienne Cooper experienced the aftermath of the 1968 Inangahua earthquake and it has stayed with her ever since.
"To the extent that now I live pretty much in an earthquake proof home," she told 1 NEWS.
"If I hang anything on the wall, I bracket things. I have a rainwater tank, I have a fireplace, with no brick chimney."
But the biggest test is yet to come.
Ms Cooper lives near the Alpine Fault, which is likely to rupture within the lifetime of many New Zealanders.
Scientists have established that the fault has ruptured 27 times over the last 8000 years. That's roughly every 300 years on average. The last significant quake was in 1717 and while experts can't predict exactly when the next one will occur, GNS Principal Scientist Kelvin Berryman says "it's certainly time to be prepared".
"It is one of the most likely events to occur in New Zealand and it will be serious," he said.
A coordinated response plan is in the making, with an earthquake scenario developed to show the possible impact on the South Island and its infrastructure.
The seismic science is being shared in local schools and public meetings as part of 'Project AF8', with advice on how communities can best be prepared.
"We've always talked about having their home kits, having their tins, their torches and all that kind of stuff at home," said Nelson Tasman Emergency Management Officer Michelle Griffiths.
"But know where your loved ones are. You might have partners or loved ones that live outside the region. How are you going to connect with them? Communications could be down."
Families are being advised that anything they do now will make all the difference after an earthquake.