Riding the wave

Daniel Hutchinson
From The Hutch

Fire and Emergency sparked the ultimate civic response exercise over the weekend. Even its own staff were surprised by the alarms that rang out right along the east coast of the Bay of Plenty.

It got a few people running for higher ground but most did what we always do when warned about sea level rise and shrugged it off. Fortunately it was just a technological glitch. A false alarm.

But what does it take to get us off the couch on a lazy Sunday evening?

An actual tsunami will get you off the couch. If you are curious as to how to tell the difference between a false tsunami alert and a real one, it really just comes down to the amount of water coming through the window.

That would constitute an unhelpfully late warning so what we really need is a system that can be relied on and more motivation to leave the house. So here are some useful tips to supplement the annoying sirens and ominous text alerts.

Change the ring tone

Try personalising your text alert from Civil Defence. Something like ‘I will Survive’ by Gloria Gaynor or Freddie Mercury yelling ‘The Show Must Go On’. For those who like a few obscenities with their disaster you could go with Eminem’s ‘Not Afraid’. In fact just about any Eminem song would do. If you’re a bit slow off the mark – Crowded House’s ‘Six months in a leaky boat’ might be more appropriate.

Think of the children

Children are often a lot faster than their elders, so the only real defence is to get a decent head start. You don’t want to get trampled by the little blighters.

Responsible parents won’t let their children have a mobile phone until they are “mature enough” so there is a clear advantage for senior citizens, parents of adults and childless Millennials who are still saving for a house.

Young parents are usually pretty zippy too but they are obliged to help their offspring get clear, so that will inevitably delay them. They will have to hunt for a lost cuddle blanket, choreograph the potty stops and load up the pram with a bizarre collection of supplies before bouncing out the drive.

Once they get going though, watch out, nothing will stop these people from reaching the safe zones.

Forget the car

Anyone who has ever used a car will know that it is often a pretty useless way to get around the city, let alone when everyone is trying to get out of town at the same time.

Therefore you need to treat your evacuation like a spontaneous walk around the neighbourhood. It’s a bit like when the Mrs asks you if you want to go for a walk and you don’t really want to but you go anyway because she wasn’t really asking.

If you aren’t normally one of the privileged or well-heeled then this is your chance to be top of the pecking order in the evacuation centre. You just need to keep a grab bag of essential items handy for such an occasion. In the old world you needed a Range Rover to be a flash Harry. Now, you just need a can of baked beans and a bottle of water.

Once you are out the door, heading in the right direction is important. No prizes for guessing that you head away from the ocean.

The council has maps of all of these places, colour coded with red, orange, yellow and green zones. Most of these places are within walking distance but I notice the council has not actually painted these colours on the ground, so you might want to practise.

There are apps around that will tell you what altitude you are at. The one I downloaded tells me I live five metres above sea level with a margin of error of four metres.

In Papamoa, most of the green zones are on the other side of the motorway, so you may well be run over three or four hundred times before you get to the other side. Nobody wants to die ironically.

Downtown Mount Maunganui is where some big decisions will need to be made. The Mount itself is a pretty obvious option although tsunamis are usually caused by earthquakes and these also tend to dislodge rocks so keep an eye out for those. That would be ironic. Blake Park is the other option but if you don’t like cricket you will die of boredom. Yes, ironic.

If you get yourself to a green zone within about half an hour, you win and get to stay alive. After a few hours, that two-year-old can of baked beans is going to be looking pretty good.

Good luck!


Note: The Tauranga City Council website has information and maps on where to go to avoid a tsunami. They advise if an earthquake is long or strong, get gone and walking is best to avoid getting caught in traffic.


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