Plan to improve tsunami response released

Tsunami siren testing is scheduled for the weekend. PHOTO: FILE

Better strategies to deal with a tsunami threat in the city’s coastal suburbs will be implemented by June after widespread confusion during November’s evacuations.

A Civil Defence Emergency Management Implementation Plan has been developed as a result, and the city council’s strategic capability committee will be asked to adopt it on Tuesday.

It comes after a review, carried out by the city council, found information given to the public was inconsistent, a Police evacuation plan for coastal suburbs had not been made public, and the Civil Defence team in charge of sending out the warning was getting information too late.

Civil Defence staff had not activated the sirens themselves before and had to call the Auckland supplier to do it. They were triggered within four minutes of the call.

It showed staff, police and Mayor Lianne Dalziel were confused about conflicting messages between national and local Civil Defence.

Residents were furious with the tsunami response. Many did not know if they should have evacuated and hundreds were stuck in traffic for more than an hour trying to do so.

It addresses the recommendations made in a review that criticised the way the evacuation process was managed in the aftermath of the November 14 earthquake, which struck at 12.02am.

The new plan outlines each recommendation made in the review, how it will be addressed, who will lead it, and when. Most changes would be in place by June.

It included a Tsunami Public Awareness Plan being prepared so residents did not need to be so reliant on sirens and so they had more education on the risks.

Work was also underway to see if there was an easier way to activate the sirens, which may include switching the system to the web so it could be activated from anywhere.

The police tsunami evacuation plan, and a tsunami evacuation zone map were both being updated.

Community preparedness plans were being developed for each coastal suburb so they would know what to do.

In terms of hazard alerts, the plan said the Red Cross Hazard App was being endorsed, and a national channel for emergency alerts would be ready by the end of the year.

Once Civil Defence moved into the new Justice and Emergency Services building at the end of next month all staff would be in one place, making it easier to communicate.

A new communication hierarchy would be developed, to improve on the confusion in November among staff, the plan said.

Under the new hierarchy, the duty manager would relay messages received from the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management and other agencies to the head of Civil Defence Emergency Management.

They would would then communicate with the local controller and general manager before the Emergency Operations Centre is activated.

The response manager would then give information to the local controller, who would communicate with city council chief executive Karleen Edwards, Ms Dalziel and city councillors.

The plan would also see appropriate facilities identified to act as welfare centres outside the evacuation zone, and making sure they had the resources needed.

The committee is also asked to request a progress report on the plan in June at Tuesday’s meeting.