Tsunami - be prepared
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Warning messages and signals about a possible tsunami can come from several sources – natural, official or unofficial.
For a local source tsunami which could arrive in minutes, there won’t be time for an official warning. It is important to recognise the natural warning signs and act quickly.
Official warnings are only possible for distant and regional source tsunami. Official warnings are disseminated by the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management to the national media, local authorities and other key response agencies. Your local council may also issue warnings through local media, siren and other local arrangements.
Unofficial or informal warnings
You may receive warnings from friends, other members of the public, international media and from the internet. Verify the warning only if you can do so quickly. If official warnings are available, trust their message over informal warnings.
Be aware of the natural signs
- Strong earthquake shaking (i.e. it is hard to stand up).
- Prolonged, weak earthquake shaking (i.e. a minute or more).
- A noticeable rapid rise or fall in coastal waters.
- Water making unusual noise.
Get to know your local area and/or holiday location
Getting ready before a tsunami strikes will help reduce damage to your home and business and help you survive.
- If you live in, or are visiting, an area at risk from tsunami, be aware of tsunami evacuation zones and routes and warning methods and signage.
- Find out if your home, school, workplace or other frequently visited locations are in tsunami hazard areas.
- If you are visiting an area at risk from tsunami, check with the hotel, motel or campground operators for tsunami evacuation information and find out what the local warning system is for tsunami. It is important to know the designated escape routes before any warning is issued.
- Know the tsunami evacuation zone, if present, for your area.
Plan your route
- Plan evacuation routes from your home, school, workplace, or any other place you could be where tsunami present a risk.
- Go as high or as far inland as you can, every metre inland or upward may make a difference. You should be able to reach your safe location on foot as soon as possible.
- Plan to evacuate on foot or bike wherever possible to avoid congestion. After a disaster, roads may become impassable or blocked.
- Follow posted tsunami evacuation routes where present; these will lead to safety.
- Local emergency management officials can advise you on the best route to safety and likely shelter locations.
School evacuation plans
- If your children’s school is in an identified evacuation zone, find out what the school evacuation plan is.
- Find out if the plan requires you to pick up your children from a safe location after the “all-clear” is given.
- Work with your school to make sure arrangements are in place for the school to evacuate children.
- Telephone lines during a tsunami or other emergency may be overloaded, and routes to and from schools are likely to be jammed.
- Practice your evacuation routes and plan - familiarity may save your life.
- Be able to follow your escape route at night and during inclement weather.
- Practicing your plan makes the appropriate response more of a reaction, requiring less thinking during an actual emergency situation.
Stay tuned to local radio
In an emergency, a radio will be your primary source of information. Stay tuned to a local radio station to keep informed of local warnings and instructions.
- Discuss tsunami with your family. Everyone should know what to do in a tsunami situation.
- Discussing tsunami ahead of time will help reduce fear and save precious time in an emergency.
- Develop a Household Emergency Plan and ensure you have a Getaway Kit ready should you need to leave in a hurry.
- Be prepared to be on your own, without outside assistance, for at least three days. Prepare a three-day Emergency Survival Kit.
- Assemble and make copies of important documents such as wills, insurance papers, medical records, etc. Keep original documents in a fireproof/waterproof container.
- Arrange an out-of-area contact person.
Tsunami preparedness amongst children
What’s the Plan Stan seeks to improve awareness and understanding of the hazards we face in New Zealand. It also promotes emergency preparedness in primary and intermediate schools by providing teachers and students with the knowledge and skills to act in a safe manner when a disaster occurs.
Click here to visit the tsunami section of What's the Plan Stan.
Click here to download Dan's tsunami story.
If you think you are at risk from tsunami
Check with your local council or civil defence offices to find out about the level of risk a tsunami may pose. Also check out the section on this website about Community Tsunami Action Plans.
Tsunami brochure (406kb PDF)
Back to the main tsunami page