The Tauranga developer of an in-home tsunami siren device says his invention would be more reliable than "ineffective" cellphone alerts.

Tsunado New Zealand Limited technical director Gary Benner said mobile and cellular technologies were ineffective in alerting the public to an imminent disaster, and were more useful for disseminating information.

"That is because they only worked if there is good cellphone coverage and
people need to be awake to receive the text alert."

Mr Benner said Monday's earthquake exposed "major deficiencies" in Civil Defence's ability to alert the public in time.


"We saw that cellular networks either collapse or in a number of locations the earthquake destroyed the fibre links required for the cellular system to operate ... The answer is already built and ready to go."

Mr Benner said the Tsunado device was a "one in every home" unit combining a portable radio and a siren as loud as a smoke alarm.

Once activated, the Tsunado's radio speaker automatically turned on a radio warning message, and a short text message was displayed on the device's screen.

Mr Benner said the portable radio component would then allow householders to receive up to date Civil Defence emergency news and instructions.

"When all else fails the Tsunado will keep on transmitting, and the battery would last five to 10 days before the need for recharging."

Mr Benner said the Tsunado had been designed together with three Civil Defence authorities using a $255,000 grant from the Callaghan Innovation Fund.

The device had been audited by the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management and been tested by Civil Defence staff in the Bay of Plenty and Auckland.

At less than $1 million a year to operate, the Tsunado system would provide a multi-channel system using radio and satellite options, giving "100 per cent" nationwide coverage, he said.

"Broadcast radio and satellites don't have the same vulnerabilities as cellphones."

Bay of Plenty Regional Council emergency management director Clinton Naude said during the initial stages, the Civil Defence group was interested in the Tsunado concept.

"At no stage did we give the company 100 per cent endorsement as a system to use in Civil Defence emergencies. Our view is that any alerting system for a tsunami should be a standardised nationwide system," he said.

Tsunado Alert Radios

- Normally powered by standard plug pack.

- Operates on battery for up to 10 days.

- Uses broadcast radio and satellite transmission.

- The device only turns on when there is an alert message.

- Can be targeted to specific regions using a regional code
or GPS on enhanced versions of the alert device.