We have all seen the devastation a natural disaster such as an earthquake or tsunami can cause and we've seen the incredible community spirit that often kicks into gear in such an event.

What we know is that communities that are prepared and connected cope so much better than those that don't. This week is Civil Defence Emergency Management's Get Ready Week, which is held each year to mark the International Day of Natural Disaster Reduction on October 13. The theme this year "Stay Safe, Stay Informed".

Read more: Residents riled by early emergency alerts

We are encouraging you to use the week as a catalyst to find out how to stay informed during an emergency. As we saw in Christchurch and Kaikoura, emergencies can happen at any time and without warning, so it is vital you are aware of how to stay informed.

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One of the most exciting things to be happening to keep people informed is a nationwide emergency mobile alert system, which should be available very soon. This will be a new way for you to receive information about emergencies in your area. If your life, health or property is in danger, emergency text alerts can be sent to your mobile, without the need for you to sign up or download an app. Emergency Mobile Alerts are expected to be up and running by the end of the year.

Family, friends and neighbours

Knowing how your family, friends and neighbours are faring and sharing information with each other is key in an emergency.
Don't underestimate the value of knowing people in your community. In an emergency, they can provide support and help keep you informed. Joining Neighbourhood Support, the online community Neighbourly, or a community Facebook page is a good way to be connected with people who live near you. Or just knock on your neighbours' door and sit down for a chat together.

Online

Hawke's Bay Civil Defence's Facebook page (@HBEmergency) provides valuable information to the public. With more than 21,000 followers, it is the "go to" point for many people in an emergency. The HB Emergency website will also keep you up to date in an emergency. (www.hbemergency.govt.nz). Met Service, NZTA and Unison websites and Facebook pages are also good sources of information.

Radio

If the power goes out, a solar or battery powered radio (or your car radio) can help you keep up to date with the latest news, in an emergency. A list of local radio stations is available at www.hbemergency.govt.nz

Red Cross Hazard App

This free app is a way for Civil Defence and other agencies to warn you, give you information and keep you up to date in an emergency.

As you can see there are plenty of ways you can stay informed during an emergency and we encourage you to take a moment this week to connect with your neighbours, our Facebook page or website, so that you can be assured you'll be up to date if an emergency strikes.

Jae Sutherland is Hawke's Bay Civil Defence Emergency Management Advisor - Community Resilience. Views expressed here are the writer's opinion and not the newspaper's. Email: editor@hbtoday.co.nz.