Blue Tsunami Lines Win International Award

28 September 2012

Wellington's 'blue lines' project - which aims to raise community awareness on how to evacuate from an approaching tsunami - has been recognised with an award from a global emergency-management group.

The International Association for Emergency Managers announced yesterday that the Blue Lines Project has won both its Global and Oceana Public Awareness categories in its annual awards.

The Washington DC-based association, with more than 5000 members in 58 countries, is a non-profit educational organisation dedicated to promoting the goals of saving lives and protecting property during emergencies and disasters.

The first tsunami-awareness blue lines were painted on roads in Island Bay in 2010 in a joint initiative involving the local community and the Wellington Emergency Management Office (which has now amalgamated into the larger Wellington Region Emergency Management Office).

More blue lines are scheduled to be painted on roads in Houghton Bay and Owhiro Bay in the next month or so - and the intention is to expand the Blue Lines Project around most low-lying areas on the south coast and around Wellington Harbour.  

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says the award is due recognition of an inspired community-preparedness initiative on the south coast.

"The blue lines in Island Bay have certainly raised awareness about the very real tsunami risk in the area. More people in Island Bay now know that if there's a big undersea earthquake just off our coast then people may have only 10 minutes or less to get well inland or get to high ground before the first waves come ashore."

People should evacuate immediately inland, past the blue lines, if the area is hit by any long or strong earthquake that ? one that lasts more than about a minute and which causes items to fall off shelves - or does more significant damage.

"The basic message of the blue lines is simple," says Mayor Wade-Brown. "If there's a big shake, better to be in your pyjamas up the hill, wishing you were in bed, than be in bed as a tsunami hits, wishing you were up a hill.

"This award is recognition of a job well-done by WREMO's Community Resilience Manager, Dan Neely, and his colleagues, staff from GNS Science and, of course, the people of Island Bay!"

Island Bay resident Katrina Mitchell-Kouttab, who took a leading role in the project, says she and her colleagues "are all genuinely delighted and surprised at the news of the award".

"We came together not only to learn about tsunami risks in our coastal area, but to educate and encourage our community to become proactive and as confident as possible when being prepared. 

"This is a wonderful testimony of what a dedicated group of community members can achieve. It is also a credit to the Emergency Management Office and Dan Neely for their tremendous outreach community and volunteer programmes.

"What wonderful magic we can create when we engage community and work together. It is this exactly this spirit which will get us through if we do encounter an emergency!"

Bruce Pepperell, the Manager of the Wellington Region Emergency Management Office, says the blue lines concept has generated positive interest from abroad including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the US, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre and the Cabinet Office for Disaster Management in Japan.

He says the blue lines act as a catalyst or ongoing reminder to encourage people to plan their evacuation routes before they need to use them. "It's a simple, cheap and long-lasting means of keeping people aware of the tsunami danger and of the need to be prepared for emergency."