Questions Remain Over Tsunami Alert
Thursday, September 8, 2016 at 2:48PM
Bill Barclay

I remain puzzled even after the reassuring presser this AM from Council regarding the incident last Friday.

Emergency Management is coverered in another part of the Website, about which more later!

The extent of the effects of the quake up and down the East Coast gives rise to some real concerns about just how Tsunami alerts are activated. I don't believe that the presser in any way alleviated those concerns, though I am sure that the Councils concerned with our Civil Defence management are at a loss to cover all exigencies.

I was wide awake at the time of the quake, and heard RNZ's Lloyd Scott break the news about ten minutes later, but from then on in conflicting advice became the order to the day, both in relation to the strength of the quake, and the actions that should be taken. Even up to two hours later advice was being given for the entire East Coast to be evacuated, then that advice stopped. Lloyd was busy telling people to a "avoid traffic congestion" as they headed for the hills." Good one Lloyd! 

The Richter Scale was reported at everything between 6.3 to 7.3 over the next hour - a vast difference which begs the question - just how are these initial reports of the scale determined? More important, at what point does the Hawaiian Tsunami Centre advice cut in? 

If one is to believe today's presser, it appears that it is entirely down to the local CD Controller - Gary Towler, to determine the level of danger and "set off the alarms." Dammit, that is simply not good enough. He may be away, or unaware, or totally unable to determine its effects.

It would do no harm for TCDC to explain the precise procedure that applies in this regard. If effects are so widely divergent as between Whitianga and elsewhere, then he (or whoever is his stand-in) need to be able to reach a decision based on accurate information rather than wildly differing and sometimes emotionally driven reports of individuals. Again, it is not clear whether they can be activated centrally from Wellington CD Headquarters.

For instance, I could have told Gary that there was not a single effect here in Tararu that I was able to determine, but I bet that plenty of others will report rock'n & rolli'n of a high magnitude. The point is that we have no idea as to how Gary is meant to reach his conclusion and make the instant decision to activate, or not. The sirens are what should be telling us to go, unless the effects are such that immediate action is prudent without any outside input. Decisions made in haste to activate based based on inaccurate information will simply lead to the sirens being treated with contempt.  

This is not a post aimed at criticising anyone or any institution; simply to draw attention to the inadequacy of the presser in explaining just how the Civil Defence Controller arrives at his critical decision. There will not be much warning in the event of the big one in the Kermadec Trench, when it comes, and Whitianga residents in particular need to know the process for their own peace of mind. There is simply insufficient information about tsunami in the Emergency Management advice on the TCDC Website. 

Okay, I know we should not rely on the sirens, but it is very natural for that to be the case - otherwise why put them in at great cost in the first place? 



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