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Disaster Awareness Week in Wellington

NEWS RELEASE 7 October 2008

Disaster Awareness Week: tomorrow will be disturbing and dramatic for Wellingtonians

Wellingtonians will be left in no doubt about the need to be prepared for a major earthquake or other emergency after two dramatic Disaster Awareness Week events tomorrow (Wednesday 8 October).

The Capital's new tsunami and civil defence warning system will get a noisy and dramatic unveiling and then, at 8.30pm, TV3 will screen a two-hour dramatic tele-feature - Aftershock - about an earthquake and tsunami hitting Wellington.

A helicopter carrying powerful loudspeakers will fly low over the central city and coastal suburbs for one hour from 6pm to 7pm on 8 October. The chopper will carry a new public-address system that's specifically designed to warn as many people as possible, in as short a time as possible, about impending danger.

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."

The test messages will also be broadcast at street level from vehicles operated by the City Council's Emergency Management Office between 10am and 12 noon - and then 6pm and 7pm to coincide with the helicopter exercise.

The 10am to 12 noon street-level exercise will cover the CBD and the southern suburbs to Island Bay. The 6pm-7pm street-level exercise will coincide with the helicopter test and will cover outer suburbs including Johnsonville, Karori, Kilbirnie and Miramar.

The Council's Civil Defence Controller, Mike Mendonca, says the tsunami warning exercise, followed by Aftershock, should leave Wellingtonians in no doubt about the need to prepare for emergency.

On Wednesday evening, good weather permitting, the helicopter will fly around the coast and harbour edge from Owhiro Bay to Ngauranga and then return - broadcasting all the way.

Mike says the portable PA system is so loud that people are warned to move well clear before it operates at full volume. It has been measured at more than 140 decibels - from more than 1 kilometre distant.

The PA system can be operated 'manually' - with a person speaking into a microphone - or it can broadcast a series of pre-recorded messages pertinent to the emergency or situation at hand.

In the event of a genuine tsunami emergency, the broadcast message will urge residents to get out of their homes and move inland or to high ground immediately - at least 1.5 kilometres inland or 35 metres above sea level - and to not wait around to collect valuables or other possessions.

Mike says Aftershock pulls no punches in showing how normal life, as we know it, would be drastically disrupted for months, if not years, following a big quake in the region.

On Thursday, starting at 9.30pm, a follow-up documentary on TV3, Aftershock - Would You Survive?, will force viewers to question that great Kiwi edict: She'll be right.

In Would You Survive?, local family Brent Lewis and Cathy Sneyd thought they were pretty well-prepared for a disaster, until they were hit by one. With kids Lizzy, 17, Doug, 14, and Sam, 12, the family had done what many Kiwi families do - they'd bought a few bottles of water and a few extra tins of food, put them in a big box in the garage, and forgotten about it.

Over 'a long weekend from hell' they received a wake-up call that they say has changed them for good. Cold, wet, tired, thirsty and hungry, the family put their bodies on the line to help viewers see for themselves what could happen to them.

The programme will test the average Kiwi's preparedness for a natural disaster - and ability to survive if the worst happens. The programme puts the family through their own personal disaster, challenging them at every turn as their world is literally shaken-up and then they're made to cope in a disaster zone with no help, for three long days.

Mike Mendonca says he hopes Wellingtonians will learn some serious lessons from the Aftershock programmes. "Whether we like it or not, if a big quake strikes the region then we will all personally have to look after ourselves for at least several days - and probably longer.

"The better prepared we are, the less traumatic the experience will be."

For digital audio versions of the helicopter broadcast messages, give Richard MacLean (details below) a call.

For further information visit www.getthru.govt.nz

ENDS

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