Tsunami Awareness Day - are you prepared?

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

What are the signs of an incoming tsunami?  How can you prepare?

Today is World Tsunami Awareness Day and Civil Defence says all of New Zealand's coastline is at risk of a tsunami.  

"Hīkoi, not convoy," is one of the key messages around tsunami safety.

“Consider walking or basically biking.  If everyone jumps in their car, then they basically risk having traffic jams even potentially accidents and people getting trapped in a traffic jam in an at-risk zone,” says Paul Stuart of Te Tairāwhiti Civil Defence.

Civil Defence is encouraging people to be aware of the natural warning signs of a tsunami such as a strong earthquake, a sudden rise or fall in sea levels or unusual noises from the sea.

“If there's a long earthquake, it doesn't have to be violent, but it lasts a minute or longer, or a strong earthquake where you struggle to stand up straight, and you live in the tsunami zone, then you need to look at self-evacuating- be gone. 'Long or strong, be gone',” says Stuart.

In the past 100 years, more than 260,000 people around the world have lost their lives in 58 separate tsunami.  In 2015, the UN called on all countries to observe World Tsunami Awareness Day and share approaches to reduce risk.

“If you're at a beach anywhere in the world and you see the sea suddenly goes out a long way then that could indicate a tsunami is coming but after an earthquake, you shouldn't be waiting to see that as a sign,” says Stuart.

Tsunami waves can arrive within minutes.  CIvil Defence says there won't always be time for emergency services to coordinate evacuations and people need to evacuate themselves.

“So rather than trying to jump in their cars and drive along parallel with the beach they'd actually be better to grab a few belongings to basically cross the road and go up the hill,” says Stuart.

Civil Defence is urging the public to check the evacuation maps on their website.