Around 15,000 people evacuated Whangārei last week amid the spectre of an up to three-metre Kermadec Islands-generated tsunami hitting while they would normally be taking care of business or grabbing a morning coffee.
Central city retailers have given the tsunami evacuation a mixed scorecard. Northland's Local Democracy Reporter Susan Botting canvassed retailers to find out more about their views on the city's first full-blown tsunami evacuation.
They were asked about:
2. Evacuated to ...
3. Knew about needing to evacuate because of the tsunami through ...
4. Business day.
6. What worked well.
7. What needs improvement.
1. Chloe and her family are well used to emergency evacuations, having lived through the Christchurch earthquakes. The family have also had experience of tsunami warnings, when living in Darwin for several years. All of the family always travel with first aid kits and blankets in their cars.
2. Home on higher ground at Woodhill.
3. Mobile alerts that came through as colleagues were discussing initial media reports.
4. Bocky Boo was open for only about 10 minutes - "We'd only sold two coffees" - before shutting again as the evacuation order came through.
5. C+, because of intersection congestion during evacuation.
6. Previous experience and mobile alerting
7. Traffic management needs improvement for tsunami evacuations.
1. First tsunami evacuation. Evacuation experience due to flooding at Hong's - previously owned Sun Wah Chinese restaurant in Bank St.
2. Hong went to higher ground in Kamo. Staff evacuated to higher ground at Parihaka, Morningside and Onerahi. But vehicle congestion caused problems for cars coming to collect four staff waiting to be picked up in the Town Basin carpark.
3. Family from China started calling Hong from about 3.30am, after the 2.27am East Cape earthquake. Hong then got mobile alerting for the Kermadec earthquakes. The Town Basin tsunami siren also alerted him. Family from China recommenced calling after further earthquakes and tsunami evacuation warnings.
4.The cafe opens at 7am so was in full swing as the tsunami alerts came through. Hong told customers already on-site, after the cafe opened at 7am, that service was stopping and they needed to evacuate. Coffees went into takeaway cups and food orders were refunded. Hong returned to the cafe after the tsunami evacuation was lifted.
5. C, because of major traffic problems. There were no police visible and/or to help with traffic point duty.
6.Hong was aware of the tsunami evacuation zone he was in via www.nrc.govt.nz/evacuationmaps
7. Significant issue with traffic congestion. More information around where to evacuate to, on foot and by car. This information needed to include the altitude of various evacuation points so people knew how high to go. Evacuation drilling. More Asian language tsunami evacuation material due to increasing numbers of foreign-born retailers operating in the central city. Mandarin language material posted on the Whangārei Chinese community's WeChat page.
1. Previous experience in tsunami evacuating from Waipū Cove home. Family emergency grab bag in car permanently.
2. From Waipū Cove family property, where home is in tsunami evacuation zone, but the back of the property is high enough to be above the zone
3. Mobile alert on phone had gone off but McKeown didn't much hear that due to music playing loudly. Friends then started phoning and he realised the seriousness of the situation.
4. McKeown's day started with a 7.30am pre-work walk along Mangawhai Beach with his partner. McKeown was en route north from his partner's place at Mangawhai to start work in Whangārei at 10am when the mobile alerting started. He had got as far as Langs Beach before the first alert so he decided to go home to Waipū Cove.
5. B+, because the evacuation alert achieved its goal.
6. Previous experience and mobile alerting.
7. Nothing much.
1. Northland Civil Defence business continuity planning meant already-existing systems were in place, regular fire drills, initial tsunami evacuation discussions.
2. Ten staff and volunteers carpooled from Whangārei store to help avoid traffic congestion, to 116 Bank St for parking. Then a walk to Whangārei Primary School. McMillan also had responsibility for Waipū Hospice shop staff's evacuation.
3. Mobile alerting.
4. Staff and volunteers had been on-site as part of setting up for 9am opening, but the shop didn't open due to the alerting. A hospice shop truck driver was already out on the road when the tsunami evacuation alert came through after delivering a load of furniture.
5. C+, because nobody much knew where to go to in cars or on foot. Vehicle access out of the central city also needed further work.
6. Previous drilling, phone tree, car pooling as a number of older volunteers, tsunami sirens backing up actions. McMillan has 60 fire evacuations under her belt but said tsunami evacuations were different because of the need to move to higher ground.
7. More work needs to be done on a central city-wide evacuation plan. A megaphone for Whangārei Primary School evacuation point so evacuees can hear instructions. Whangārei District Council needs to host a workshop for those in the central city to learn more about tsunami evacuation preparation and response.
1. Sherry and her husband Johnny have a home at the coast on Tapuaetahi near Kerikeri and have previously evacuated from there for the Boxing Day tsunami alert.
2. Kamo in their cars and sat in cafe, enjoying a coffee.
3. Mobile alerting.
4. Everything all set up to open for the day, but the alert came through and the shop was then shut down, after valuables put into the safe.
5. A, because most people stayed calm and evacuated as was asked of them without any drama.
6. People remained calm.
7. Further-developed tsunami evacuation process through role allocations. Improved systems for traffic flow out of the city. Central city tsunami evacuation drill. Development and promotion of walking evacuation routes. There was also the need for people to have more information about where to evacuate to.
1. Grabbed warm clothing and a first aid kit on the way out the door to evacuate.
2. Kamo roadside where he stayed for the evacuation duration, checking his phone for news. Yu didn't know where to evacuate to or what to do when there. He thought the Town Basin tsunami sirens he could hear were home burglar alarms. He thought the initial mobile alerting was to instruct about Covid-19 alert levels changing.
3. Mobile phone alerting, asking a neighbouring retailer, following what he could see other John St retailers doing.
4. Yu was just opening his shop when the mobile alert went off. The shop opens at 9am and was open for just 10 minutes before being shut, reopening at 3pm, when other John St retailers were also open.
5. A, because people were evacuated.
6. Seeing others in action evacuating.
7. Chinese language tsunami evacuation material for those evacuating from central city.