Pacific Wave Tsunami Exercise

7 November 2011

We're gearing up for the international tsunami exercise Pacific Wave this Thursday and want local schools, childcare centres and businesses to take part too - by heading for higher ground if necessary.

In a tsunami, head for higher ground if necessary

In a tsunami, head for higher ground if necessary

On the day, we will be told what time and how big the tsunami will be. We will then issue an exercise alert.

If the time does not suit your school or organisation's schedule, we suggest you practise it at a time that suits.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown is encouraging all local schools, particularly those near the harbour and south coast, to take part.

The rule of thumb to escape a tsunami is simple - you should move as quickly as possible to get to high ground, at least
35 metres above sea level. Or head inland as far as possible.

The exercise won't take a great deal of your time. The only difference is that you need to put some thought into where you would go and how you would get there.

Mayor Wade-Brown says we don't know when a disaster will strike but we do know it can happen at any time. "If and when it does we must all be prepared. Be ready to help your neighbours and colleagues."

The Wellington region is susceptible to tsunamis. Cook Strait and the area to the east of the country is where two tectonic plates meet. So if there's a big undersea earthquake then Wellingtonians will have only a matter of minutes to get away from the coast.

If there's strong shaking for more than a minute or you can't stand up, don't wait for any other warning, head to higher land.

On the day, our vehicles equipped with loudspeakers will be travelling coastal roads between 10.00am and 2.00pm issuing test tsunami alerts.

Wellingtonians can expect to hear a jarring and shrill sound - the national Civil Defence 'sting' siren - followed by the words:

"This is a test - the next time you hear this siren it could be a real emergency or disaster. Get ready to get through - your local council can help."

Thursday's tsunami test alert is being conducted by the Council's Emergency Management Office (WEMO) as part of the Pacific-wide tsunami awareness exercise. As part of the exercise, WEMO will send test tsunami warnings to those who have signed up to its Twitter-based text alert system.

Businesses are also being asked to use some time on the day to plan for a tsunami alert - and consider how they would evacuate their building.

Businesses need to think about what important items, files and documents to move and where they would continue working after an event.

If your school wants to be involved or you would like someone from WEMO to visit and help plan your school's response to an emergency, please email Karlene Tipler at karlene.tipler@wcc.govt.nz.

If your school or business is unable to conduct an actual evacuation, we suggest you take the opportunity to review the emergency plans you have in place and check your emergency supplies.