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False tsunami alert to be investigated

Tuesday, 1 October 2013 11:34 a.m.

From the Whakatane District Council. You can read the original media release on the WDC website.  

Eastern Bay of Plenty Civil Defence Emergency Management is investigating the cause of a false alarm which triggered the region’s continuous rise tsunami siren just before 8am this morning (1 October 2013).

The siren system, which is linked through existing New Zealand Fire Service sirens, along with additional sirens which were recently installed at Coastlands, Waiōtahe and Ōhiwa, was accidentally activated this morning, with the cause still unknown.

Eastern Bay of Plenty Civil Defence Emergency Management Coordinator, Jim Tetlow, says this morning’s false alarm was frustrating, particularly given the timing, and the cause would be investigated. “There is well-defined system for activating the sirens, which requires more than simply pushing a button, so we’re not sure at this stage how it has occurred,” he says. “We have asked Kordia, the contractors responsible for the siren network, to investigate if there was an issue with the pager network, and explain what has happened and how.”

Mr Tetlow says the positive that can be taken from false alarm is that a number of people heard the sirens throughout the Eastern Bay, and tuned into, or phoned Radio 1XX to find out what was happening. “This is still a manmade system, so faults are possible, but it’s reassuring to see that people have taken the correct action in response to the alert, and credit to the team at 1XX for reacting so quickly.”

“At the same time, we can’t afford to develop a sense of complacency and risk the ‘boy who cried wolf’ factor that false alarms could bring,” he says. “This has happened the day after a national report has been made public regarding potential tsunami impacts on the country – and only a few hours after a minor quake near White Island – so the timing is less than ideal, to say the least.”

Mr Tetlow says he shares the frustration of residents who want to be accurately alerted. “We know from this morning’s false alarm that there are a number of residents who are not able to hear the sirens,” he says. “We are currently in the process of identifying additional sites for siren placement.”

Mr Tetlow confirmed again that the sirens are not a signal to evacuate. “The siren is the signal to turn on your radio to 1XX for more information.

“It is unlikely the sirens will sound in a local source event, due to the limited time before the arrival of the first wave, so people should take action upon feeling the natural warning signs,” Mr Tetlow warns. “If you live near the coast and feel a strong earthquake that makes it hard to stand up, or an earthquake that lasts for a minute or more, you should immediately move inland or to higher ground.”


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