Philip Duncan: Civil Defence's big long silence (again) - The simple fix for future tsunami risks

By Philip Duncan

This morning it took almost an hour before the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management (MCDEM) aknowledged the severe magnitude 7.1 earthquake off East Cape that WeatherWatch and GeoNet had been covering since it happened. It also took a full hour for Civil Defence to issue a public tsunami threat and over 80 minutes for a Tsunami Warning.

In the minutes after the earthquake, recorded at 4:37am, GeoNet had already reviewed and confirmed the size and depth of this earthquake.

But GeoNet cannot advise the public on tsunami risks - they must wait for Civil Defence to do it.

And wait they do.

And wait.

And hope nothing is happening as they wait and public concerns grow.

There are some great people at Civil Defence, both in the local councils and in Government at MCDEM. But this morning's delays once again remind us that Civil Defence, at least from a Ministry point of view, is FAR too slow in these highly critical moments.

The simple solution? Give GeoNet the power to talk to the people beyond saying just where the quake was and how strong it was.

GeoNet has a great reputation, are well known for setting the standards, and most importantly they are both accurate and fast. In an urgent life or death situation the current set up is bad.

If the New Zealand Government is OK with MetService warning us of cyclones, why can't the scientific experts at GeoNet be the ones to initially warn and update us re: tsunami risk? Civil Defence can still take over once they 'get going' - but we shouldn't have to wait first for them.

Even the Red Cross emergency app failed - with people bombarded with unhelpful updates.

Seriously New Zealand - this is life or death stuff. Do we need to remind the Government of Japan's tsunami? Or the Boxing Day tsunami?

Judging by the angry reaction we saw from the public this morning due to Civil Defence's sleepy wake up, the simple GeoNet solution may be just what this country needs to better protect us.

• Philip Duncan is head weather analyst at Weather Watch

- NZ Herald

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