Civil Defence Staff Road Test Planning
18 May 20062006
A fictional tsunami, due to hit New Zealand in the early hours of the morning, gave Manukau Civil Defence staff an opportunity to ‘road test’ their disaster planning on Wednesday (May 17).
The scenario, part of a multinational Civil Defence exercise which involved 28 countries from around the Pacific, was designed to increase preparedness, exercise warning arrangements in each country and improve co-ordination throughout the Pacific.
For Manukau officials, the exercise began at 11.12am when the Ministry of Civil Defence Emergency Management telephoned with a ‘heads up’ that there had been an earthquake off the coast of Chile.
At 11.50am, a message was sent advising that the magnitude 9.2 earthquake had generated a tsunami, estimated time of arrival in New Zealand is 13 hours from time of earthquake.
The Manukau Civil Defence activated its headquarters in the basement of the Civic Building at approximately 1pm, involving Police, Fire, Ambulance and Manukau City Council civil defence staff. However it did not have to declare an emergency, as this was done by the Auckland Regional Group, on behalf of all local councils.
As more information about the size of the tsunami, and expected arrival times on the east and west coast, was disseminated from the Auckland Civil Defence Emergency Management Group, local evacuation plans were made.
Local Controller, Grant Taylor, says at one stage in the exercise, Manukau civil defence staff and emergency services were faced with evacuating thousands of people from low lying areas on both the east coast, and around Manukau Harbour.
“We were advised to expect a 4m wave on the east cost, and 2m wave on the west. Later in the afternoon, the size of the tsunami expected to hit the Manukau Harbour was reduced from 2m to half a metre, which meant we would not have had to carry out extensive evacuation on the west coast,” he says.
The Manukau Civil Defence operations, along with Auckland, Rodney, Waitakere, North Shore, Papakura and Auckland regional civil defence operations, were in regular contact by conference calls, email and telephone.
The Manukau operations ended at 6pm after all players agreed that their response plans had been carried out adequately.
Mr Taylor says the exercise was an opportunity to involve rescue services and civil defence staff and allowed them to work together to develop evacuation plans.
“It was a learning opportunity, which provided us with valuable lessons,” he says. “The Manukau operation was relatively smooth and we will be giving our feedback to the regional group, for inclusion in the report to the Ministry.
“We will also hold a full debrief for our own team to reflect on what went well and what could have been done better.”