Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule said Monday's earthquake was probably the largest in terms of duration that had been felt in the region for a long time, and was a timely reminder about the dangers.
Acknowledging the loss of lives in other areas, he said the natural reaction after such an event was to worry about a tsunami, and vigilance was needed.
He noted that it took some time for the information to come through about the potential risk in Hawke's Bay, due to early reports that the earthquake was land-based and as such did not equate to immediate tsunami concerns.
"But then Geonet said the faultline went out to sea - an hour later we had a tsunami warning and then had to work out how big it was."
He said it took a while to get the message out to the Red Zone areas of Te Awanga, Waimarama, Ocean Beach and one street in Westshore.
"Council staff went around with loudspeakers on vehicles to those Red Zone areas, although a lot of people had self-evacuated."
Although there was always the potential for such warnings to be false alarms, he said people always needed to vigilant.
"If you can't stand or are struggling to stand, think tsunami."
He said that overall the civil defence protocols worked well and were well co-ordinated between Wellington, Hawke's Bay and council emergency officers who were mobilised at 4am and were starting to stand down at 6.30am on Monday.
He added that council staff started inspecting the area's bridges at 5am, all of which stood up well.
Meanwhile, Hastings district councillors had undergone timely civil defence training on Thursday last week.
Waimarama-based councillor Bayden Barber said the area was used to flooding and tsunami warnings, but Monday's events highlighted the risks.
"The 2011 flood is still fresh in our memories due to the scale of destruction experienced.
"I hope this experience leads to action and people make preparations for the real threat of a major emergency."
Napier mayor Bill Dalton said he was in Australia at the time but was due back last night. He had been kept updated during the night by the Napier City Council chief executive and Civil Defence.