Preparing for the next earthquake or tsunami warning

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

Following a significant 6.1 magnitude aftershock earthquake this week, communities on the East Coast are revising their emergency plans. Kaiti School in Tūranga Nui a Kiwa is reviewing its tsunami plan and procedures for students.

"Our main focus is on our tamariki," Kaiti Schoo teacher Puna Manuel says. "Making sure that they're kept safe, they know the procedures well, that they're made accountable for, so we run our Etap ( parent portal), everyone is there on the roll, and we don't have anyone missing so just making sure that our kids are safe and that everybody is happy and calm."

The students are being put through their paces with drills to prepare for the next earthquake, in the event that one strikes while they are at school.

"It's quite good running through the drills, even getting under the table can be quite fun at times. Me and kōkā trying to get under the table is a bit of hassle trying to get back up but it's good. The kids are responding really well. I think just more practice is needed, (earthquakes) becoming more common now so just being prepared and ready," Manuel says.

Huge responsibility

With a roll just shy of 400 students, the teachers have a huge responsibility to look after the kids in an emergency. This land is also a Civil Defence evacuation zone for the many kindergartens of Tūranga Nui a Kiwa, and there is a hill that they will climb in the event of a tsunami.  

"That's a huge responsibility," Kaiti School principal Billie-Jean Potaka Ayton says. "A big part of that is communicating our plan with parents. One of the things we have done since the last earthquake is ask our parents, 'what is your plan? Share that plan with us. Who is the person who is going to come in and pick up your tamariki? And keep in touch with us via our Facebook page."

Following the 7.2 magnitude earthquake last month, and the significant aftershock on Monday, the school is stepping up its response systems and looking to improve on areas of weakness. 

Enough supplies?

"We have been reviewing our tsunami plan like everybody else in Gisborne,"  Potaka-Ayton says. "We had Civil Defence come in last week to analyse our site, have a look at the risks that present like the electric fence at the back - how are we going to get the kids over there? plus the water tank up at the top of the hill. So just being more aware, more conscious of the some of the risks that we weren't aware of before."

When tsunami warnings are issued, it can be a long wait before getting the all-clear so there are also considerations around emergency provisions such as food and water for hundreds of students. 

"That's really interesting because Civil Defence said they'd bring all that [provision] to the site, but we are asking: Do we have enough supplies for a day of kai, for all of our tamariki and to be honest at the moment we don't."

The school will this week be rehearsing the scenario of what to do when an earthquake strikes while students are playing outside, on the offchance that teachers may not be right there to give instruction.