Island Bay Tsunami Awareness Project

10 February 2011

Island Bay residents have been working alongside Wellington City Council's Emergency Management Office (WEMO) and GNS Science to help prepare the community for a tsunami.

The six-month pilot project has seen members of the community help to identify evacuation routes, safe locations in the event of a tsunami and create a sign to educate the community about tsunami risk.

Wellington City Council's Emergency Preparedness Manager, Fred Mecoy, says the pilot project is unique in that the community has developed solutions that will work for their seaside community, and come up with some creative ideas in the process.

"Over the course of six months we worked with a group of around 20 Island Bay residents who volunteered their time regularly to help develop evacuation route signs showing the way to safe zones, and come up with ideas to educate the community about tsunami risk.

"Because we have worked directly with the community, we had a much more diverse set of ideas - which has resulted in the idea of the 'blue line safe zone' concept.

This will see a series of blue lines painted across some streets throughout the suburb marking the tsunami safety zone. Once you cross the line and move uphill you are likely to be safe from tsunami.

"The line indicates where the safety zone would start if there was a tsunami generated by a large local earthquake," Fred says.

"The idea behind it was to clearly mark out a safe zone and to create something that would encourage word-of-mouth interest in the community and ongoing education about tsunamis."

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, who holds the Emergency Management portfolio, says the community-level approach will help raise awareness.

"Residents and visitors living on or near the South Coast and around the region's coastline are at risk of being overwhelmed by a quake-generated tsunami and they need to know what to do.

"Involving local people in developing solutions to the problem, and innovative ones at that, will help educate the community about the risks and actions they need to take.

"People should think and plan on how they will get themselves, their families and their neighbours to safety as quickly and easily as possible," she says.

The blue lines and signs will be in place before the start of the Island Bay Festival on 12 February where WEMO staff and volunteers will be present to talk about the project and emergency preparedness. Informational flyers have also been distributed to Island Bay residents in the tsunami evacuation zone.

The project has garnered international interest from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) in the United States and could potentially be rolled-out across the city.

Fred says the threat of tsunami in Wellington is relatively high with our earthquake risk, long coastline and low-lying areas of the city.

"We only need to look at the 1855 Wairarapa earthquake, which generated a tsunami of up to five metres in several locations in Wellington. In geological terms this is not that long ago.

"Obviously other parts of the city are at risk from a tsunami too so we are interested in talking with other communities that would like to work with us on a similar education project."

For more information, phone (04) 460 0650 or email wemo@wcc.govt.nz.