Tauranga tsunami sirens report this month

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A report on the suitability and implementation of tsunami sirens for Tauranga will be presented to Tauranga City Council later this month.

It comes after TCC commissioner Stephen Selwood stated his belief that the current system needs work.

Speaking at the council meeting on Monday, Stephen says the potential installation of new tsunami sirens in Papamoa Beach, Selwood highlights how impressed he was with the Emergency Mobile Alert system during the tsunami scare of last month.

“It raised with me, when I read this report, just how effective I thought the mobile telephone emergency alerts were.

“In fact, so effective they got half of Papamoa driving down Papamoa Beach Road clamouring to get to the Mount, causing serious evacuation challenges and issues.

“It raises to me what I think is actually the more important issue, which is what is the appropriate response to an emergency alert?”

Whilst suggesting he was happy to see an education campaign underway regarding emergency response, he felt the events of last month highlight that improvements still need to be made.

“The alarm we had, albeit it turned out to be a false alarm, was an extremely valuable exercise in demonstrating that we don’t have it right now and we need to get it right in the future.

“There is no point having sirens if nobody knows what to do in response to them.”

Selwood expressed a desire to understand the merits of mobile alerts over sirens and to practice and demonstrate communities have an understanding of how to respond to an emergency incident.

He adds money that might be spent on sirens, could be used “much more effectively elsewhere” and that must be discussed with the local community.

The report on tsunami sirens, which will be presented to council on Tuesday, April 27, will talk specifically about sirens as well as the other “methods in the toolbox” when it comes to warning systems.

Commissioner chair Anne Tolley commented on the success of EMA systems in rural areas such as the Eastern Bay during last month’s tsunami alert and evacuation.

She believes it shows how technology may have finally caught up to the point that all communities can be served by the system.

Previous plans to install new sirens from Papamoa to Omanu have been delayed, with the impact of Covid-19 attributed as the main factor.

In 2014, the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management released a new standard for tsunami warning sirens and any new sirens installed in Tauranga would be required to meet that standard.

There are no currently active tsunami sirens in Tauranga.

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