World’s first te reo Māori fire alarm evacuation message

By Herewini Waikato

Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ruamata has installed the world’s first fire alarm emergency evacuation message in te reo Māori.

Principal Cathy Dewes says this has been a long time coming, with Māori an official language of New Zealand for some years, but that only now has Māori been added to emergency devices in Māori immersion schools.

“Evacuate the building via the nearest exit.  It's unpleasant to the Māori ear listening to English when we are pro reo Māori here. Now we have both languages, this is great,” Dewes says.

John Richards is thrilled with what he has accomplished. The system installed in the school has 130 smoke detectors, 57 heat detectors and 23 manual core points. It has 40 sounders across the property to meet the minimum legal requirement of 65db across the property. Every single room has a sounder. 

‘A lot more comforting’

Student Mereana Hawke says the new evacuation message is awesome.

”I have been here for close to 10 years and the alarm message has always been in English. In my last year at school, I am hearing it in Māori and now the next generation will grow in the school hearing the message in Māori” she says.

Fellow student Nopera Hohepa says when she was growing up she was frightened by the alarms “but now in te reo Māori it's a lot more comforting”.

To have the Māori language included in the fire evacuation message was not easy and Richards had to get permission from the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Business, Pertronic and Arjest, which took months.

As he went through the approval process, two people in the chain questioned whether the Pākehā message should come before the Māori message, “and I went back and said ‘No, these are kura kaupapa Māori schools that we are putting these into and it is very appropriate the Māori message is first,” Richards says.

All schools, marae, and kohanga now have the opportunity to adopt the Māori evacuation message.

“It's up to them. We have harnessed this technology with John Richards and others, and we are thankful,” Dewes says.

Richards has now started working with Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Koutu on its fire alarm evacuation message in te reo Māori.