Jamie Morton is the NZ Herald's science reporter.

Tsunami sirens of limited benefit

Tsunami warning sirens that sounded across Auckland in a test-run at the weekend are not favoured by our national emergency agency.

Yesterday, sirens based around Rodney and throughout Waitakere on Auckland's north and west coasts were given a blast in their first of twice-yearly checks.

The operations manager of Civil Defence, David Coetzee, said his agency wrote to councils last year clarifying its position on tsunami sirens.

Mr Coetzee told the Herald that sirens had limited benefit and people needed to understand what they could and couldn't do.

In a "near-source" tsunami, for instance, people were encouraged to find higher ground immediately and not wait for a siren.

Auckland is one of the lowest seismically active parts of New Zealand, and while large earthquakes aren't common, the chance of a large tsunami-generating earthquake is possible.

Auckland Council is reviewing its siren network, a legacy of former councils, and is not installing any further devices until the next generation of warning technology is ready.

Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby has called for a uniform tsunami response system for the country to prevent confusion.

Auckland Civil Defence said yesterday's test should come as a timely reminder for people in the city to get prepared.

Civil Defence emergency management manager Clive Manley said the tests were run to check operational performances and familiarise residents with the siren tones.

"However, with recent events in Auckland it is probably a timely reminder to residents of all areas to think about how they would cope in an emergency," Mr Manley said.

"The fact is that being prepared can be as simple as having a discussion with your family about where you would meet up if an emergency happened and you were separated."

Our siren signals

Alert signal: Dash-Dash-Dot-Dot (evacuate beaches, listen for more information)
Evacuate signal: Dot-Dot-Dot (evacuate to nearest high ground, avoid using personal transport)
All-clear signal: Continuous tone for five minutes.

* Listen to the tones here.

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- NZ Herald

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