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Tsunami threat provides a valuable workout

5 May 2005

Tsunami threat provides a valuable workout for Red Cross warning system

The early warning system set up to anticipate a New Zealand Red Cross response to disasters throughout New Zealand and the Pacific had a successful workout following a tsunami threat this morning

After receiving a tsunami warning alert at 3.58 am, operations manager Andrew McKie was able to put Red Cross disaster response staff on standby hours before a potential tsunami was due to hit New Zealand.

Mr McKie was also able to provide up-to-date information on the situation to other Red Cross National Societies in the Pacific, including the Fiji Red Cross.

He says that although a direct response was not required on this occasion, it provided a valuable test for the warning system.

"We had our most experienced disaster response staff on standby, while we monitored the situation. Should the situation have progressed, we would have been able to alert our volunteer and disaster response network, including dispatching people to the Pacific. We were also in contact with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent in Geneva, which was monitoring the situation," he says.

The disaster response staff were stood down at 6.10 am, when it was clear the threat of a tsunami would not eventuate, Mr McKie says.

New Zealand Red Cross has recently established a satellite phone network throughout the Pacific so that early warnings can be passed on to remote islands, and to enable those affected to give situational reports immediately after a disaster when other infrastructure is damaged.

In the event of a major disaster in New Zealand, the Red Cross is mandated to set up a national enquiry centre to link family and friends who may be concerned about their loved ones.

Mr McKie says that New Zealand Red Cross would also help with the provision of clothing and other welfare services, as well as coordinating support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent.


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