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Meeting to sort tsunami warning confusion


While September’s recent tsunami threat passed by Northland’s coast without disruption, aftershocks of a different kind have caused some disconcerting ripples in Mangawhai’s community.

Conversations on Mangawhai’s local Facebook pages in the days following the event, revealed residents’ confusion and concern over the accessibility of information and questions regarding the locality and usage of the tsunami siren.

Northland Civil Defense (NCD) Emergency Management Officer, Sharon Douglas, says the Facebook conversations have concerned the organisation and a community meeting to clarify the NCD disaster process will be held at Mangawhai Library Hall on September 24 at 2pm.

“The September 2 tsunami illustrated to us that a lot of people sought information that was available through TV and radio and we also had 7000 people seek information through our Facebook page in regards to the earthquake and what to do,” Douglas says. “However, equally were the number of people who were unaware of the earthquake and potential tsunami.”

NCD also wants to reassure residents that the sirens were not activated due to the circumstances not reaching the necessary threat threshold.

“Had we thought there was a serious risk to residents, there were more actions we would have undertaken,” she says. “The community would have known.”

Besides intending to clarify aspects of Civil Defense’s response and alert systems, the public meeting is also to discuss the Community Response Plan (CRP), i.e. ‘localised emergency procedures’ and information on how to respond when a threat occurs, and to stimulate enthusiasm for the existing ‘Mangawhai Community Response Group’.

“The community response group are not a huge commitment,” Douglas says. “It’s a group of people who are willing to take on the responsibility of helping others when danger strikes.”

The meeting is planned to coincide with NDC’s twice-yearly tsunami signal testing on daylight savings weekend, September 25.
Tsunami signs

Mangawhai’s nine tsunami sirens are found in different locations along the shoreline from Black Swamp Road to the Heads. However, when triggered, the sirens are not necessarily to signal an evacuation but to alert residents that they need to seek out official information about the level of threat and how to respond.

Although Northland’s tsunami siren network provides a valuable warning system, there may not be adequate time for them to be activated if an earthquake occurs in close proximity to New Zealand’s shores. Local tsunamis may only give a few minutes warning and do not allow enough time for an official response.

In this case people need to know the natural signals that indicate a threat is eminent. Besides earthquakes, either strong and shaking or weak and rolling, unusual sea behaviour including a rapid rise and fall of sea levels and loud roaring noises similar to a jet engine, are a clear indicator of tsunami activity.

Coastal residents in particular need to be prepared and pre-plan an emergency strategy. Knowing where you are going in the event of a tsunami is vital.

n To stay informed, download the free Red Cross Hazard App for alerts and follow NCD on Facebook, www.facebook.com/civildefencenorthland.

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