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Next step in increased tsunami preparedness

Hon Rick Barker
Minister of Civil Defence

26 May 2008

Next step in increased tsunami preparedness

New Zealand has taken the next step in increased tsunami preparedness with the release of a national standard for tsunami signs. The National Tsunami Signage Technical Standard was launched by Civil Defence, Minister Rick Barker, and Waitakere City Mayor, Bob Harvey, at Westpark Marina this afternoon.

Local authorities will now be able to put up nationally standard signs that indicate: tsunami evacuation zones, evacuation routes for vehicles and pedestrians, tsunami safe locations, and information boards and signs about previous tsunami.

"The national standard will mean that wherever people travel in the country the signs will look the same and mean the same things. The signs should also be familiar to overseas tourists, as they are based on international best practice,” Mr Barker said

"In the event of a tsunami generated by an earthquake near the coast there is no warning system in the world can alert people in time. Having nationally consistent signs can help prevent confusion and possible delay if people do have to evacuate an area quickly.

"People must understand that if they are near the coast and feel a strong earthquake, a tsunami may arrive in only minutes. They must quickly move away from the water and to higher ground or inland. Every step they take away from the water makes them safer, and the standard announced today will help ensure people know what to do.

The signage standard is part of a wider tsunami risk management programme. We are building closer links between New Zealand and international science agencies that monitor earthquakes and tsunami, have introduced a 24/7 Civil Defence Emergency Management Warning and Advisory system, and we are creating planning guidelines for mass evacuations. A range of mapping, alerting and evacuation plans and systems within each of the country’s 16 civil defence emergency management regional groups are also being developed.

In addition, Land Information New Zealand and the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences has recently installed a sea-level gauge at the Port of Tauranga. This additional gauge forms part of a national network for monitoring tsunamis. In the event of a tsunami reaching the coast, information from the network will be provided promptly to New Zealand civil defence agencies so they can focus their response on areas that have been affected most.

Immediately after the Gisborne earthquake last year many people self-evacuated from the town.

"They did exactly the right thing. Thankfully that earthquake did not generate a damage-causing tsunami. The next one might and people must be prepared," Mr Barker said.

The signs will be rolled out over time, with the details being up to each city and district council to decide according to their local knowledge and needs.

ENDS

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