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Major local-source tsunami campaign rolls out


It is a matter of when, not if, a tsunami will impact Hawke’s Bay – and, although rare, it could well be as big as the waves that devastated Japan in 2011, says Hawke’s Bay Emergency Management Group Controller Ian Macdonald.

A campaign is underway to ensure everyone living or working in the 20,000-plus Hawke’s Bay properties within the tsunami evacuation zones knows to get uphill or inland immediately following a long OR strong earthquake.

While the mantra ‘Long or Strong (an earthquake that lasts longer than a minute or is hard to stand up in) – Get Gone’ is well known, it is less clear that residents know which properties need to be evacuated. This campaign aims to remove any doubt for Hawke’s Bay communities.

The campaign includes a letter and an outdoor graded letterbox sticker being sent to all residences, businesses, and homes within the zones.

“If a Long or Strong earthquake is felt, everyone in all of the tsunami evacuation zones needs to ‘Get Gone’. The colour of the zone you are in - red, orange or yellow - doesn’t matter,” Ian Macdonald said.

“The zones are used when tsunami come from far away, providing time for warnings and planned evacuations. You won’t feel an earthquake, and only some zones may be asked to evacuate.

“But, if a tsunami is generated just off the coast, we will all feel a Long or Strong earthquake. When that happens, don’t wait for official warning or advice. We don’t have time to warn the occupants of more than 20,000 properties. We need people to have a plan and Get Gone.”

Ian Macdonald says the other major ‘don’t’ is: Don’t check Facebook or the website to find out what you should do.

“Even if the power and internet is still working after the earthquake, putting information up online takes time; people should use that time to evacuate.

“The earthquake may be the only warning you get. There won’t be sirens; there won’t be a knock at your door. As soon as the earthquake stops, get everyone in your home together, grab your Emergency Grab Bags and your pets - if they are with you - and get out of there.

“Napier has old public alerting sirens which some people think will be used, but in fact we’ll never use sirens to warn for a local-source tsunami in Hawke’s Bay. There won’t be time for an official warning, and the siren system would likely be damaged or without power after the shaking, which is what happened in Japan, even with their modern fixed sirens.”

Those Hawke’s Bay residents who felt the large 2.30am earthquake in March as a long earthquake and self-evacuated should be congratulated, he said.

“They didn’t wait for some other signal to evacuate and that was the right thing to do. It’s better to err on the side of caution.

“An important GNS-led research paper published last week concludes there is a 26 per cent chance of a major, potentially tsunami-causing earthquake occurring in the next 50 years. This research shows the importance of planning and preparedness, along with public education.

“If you need reminding, take another look at footage of the 2011 tsunami in Japan. We have a very similar plate boundary off our coast, and what happened there could very easily happen here,” Ian Macdonald said.

If you live or work within the evacuation zones you need to:

Have a plan: Know where you are going to evacuate to as soon as the shaking stops.

Have an Emergency Grab Bag ready and accessible at all times (holding essential items including water, spare medication, light-weight snacks and pet food; remember, you have to be able to carry it on foot).

Know where your shoes and torch are (especially at night when you are likely to be disoriented if woken by an earthquake).

14 July 2021

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