Wellingtonians: Learn to Head Higher to Escape Tsunamis

1 November 2011

Wellington City Council is gearing up for the international tsunami exercise Pacific Wave on Thursday 10 November and wants local schools, childcare centres and businesses to take part too - heading for higher ground if they need to.

On the day, the Council will be told what time and how big the tsunami will be. It will then issue an exercise alert. If the time doesn't suit a school or organisation's schedule, the Council's emergency management staff suggest participants can practise at a time that suits them.

Wellington 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. Either that 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. We don't know when a disaster will strike but we do know this - they can happen at any time and, when they do, we must all be prepared. Be ready to help neighbours and colleagues!"

Mayor Wade-Brown says 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, Council vehicles equipped with loudspeakers will travel 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 Wellington Emergency Management Office (WEMO) as part of the Pacific Wave tsunami awareness exercise.

WEMO will also send test tsunami warning using its Emergency Text Alert service as part of the exercise. To sign up for free, go to:

Txt Alerts - WemoNZ - Facebook website

Or find us on Twitter at Wemonz - we're only 30 followers away from 5,000:

Wgtn Emergency Mgmt - Twitter website

"In the event of a real tsunami we may send volunteers door knocking in some at risk areas to increase the chances of people being alerted to any danger," WEMO manager Fred Mecoy says.

If a school, kindergarten or rest home wants to be involved or would like someone from WEMO to visit and help plan how their organisation should respond to an emergency, they should contact Karlene Tipler: karlene.tipler@wcc.govt.nz.

If a school or business is unable to conduct an actual evacuation, WEMO suggests they take the opportunity to review their emergency plans and check emergency supplies.

Useful Web Links

To find out which areas in Wellington are at risk from tsunami, visit:

Tsunami Maps - WemoNZ - Facebook website

To register for emergency text alerts, visit:

Txt Alerts - WemoNZ - Facebook website

For further information about disaster preparedness, visit:

Get Ready Get Thru website