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Tsunami sirens step closer for Eastern Bay

Tsunami sirens step closer for Eastern Bay
For immediate release: 24 February 2012

Ōpōtiki District Council and Whakatāne District Council has put forward a joint application to the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management for additional fire sirens to work as a tsunami warning system.

The proposed system would see the conversion of existing New Zealand Fire Service sirens to enable a tsunami alerting system and the installation of a further three sirens.

The Bay of Plenty Civil Defence Emergency Management Coordinating Executive Group received and endorsed the application to the Ministry’s resilience fund today. In May 2011 the decision was made by the region’s Civil Defence Emergency Management Group Joint Committee to adopt a suite of public alerting systems and to further investigate fixed siren systems for the region.

Ōpōtiki District Councillor Shona Browne says existing New Zealand Fire Service (NZFS) sirens would be used to provide an additional warning system at a minimal cost in other areas of the country.

“This method of alerting the public is currently available in Thames Coromandel and in the Western Bay of Plenty District, as well as other areas of New Zealand. By adopting this system in the Opotiki and Whakatane districts, we’ll be aligning our tsunami warning system along the majority of the Bay of Plenty coastline,” Councillor Browne says.

The proposal is to convert existing NZFS sirens to produce a continuous rise siren for a period of 10 minutes, which can be activated via a pager number. Gaps in coverage will require additional sirens to be installed at sites near Waiotahi, Ōhiwa and Ōhope West End.

Whakatāne District Council Mayor Tony Bonne says the Eastern Bay of Plenty coastline presents many challenges for alerting communities to the threat of a tsunami.

“The proposed system presents us with an opportunity to provide a consistent and affordable approach to warning the public along a large section of the Bay of Plenty coastline.

“This will not only increase our ability to alert the community in areas with poor coverage, but also in the more built up areas of the Eastern Bay of Plenty.

“During the summer many of the Eastern Bay towns have a vastly increased population which results in difficulty alerting people. Our visitors are not aware of local systems, so an audible siren is a distinctive and simple way to ensure that residents and visitors can be alerted” Mayor Bonne says.

Sirens are one part of a suite of measures being introduced to help prepare communities in the Eastern Bay for the possibility of a tsunami. Readynet, a web-based application which stores and shares emergency management information, uses an electronic and SMS text message alerting system to send emergency information.

In areas with poor coverage where this might not be possible, VHF radios have been installed to communicate messages to the local community.
Sirens, Readynet text messaging and VHF radios will not be used to evacuate residents and visitors, but to alert people that they should turn on their radio to receive information about what further action they need to take.

Evacuations plans are being developed to identify where residents should evacuate to, and how they should evacuate, according to the amount of time available to do so.

If the proposal is successful, it will be backed by a public education campaign to ensure that residents know what action they should take when the continuous rise siren sounds.


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