Maintaining lines of communication and finding any gaps in their planning will be just some of the outcomes Whanganui's emergency management team expects from a national exercise starting on Wednesday.

Exercise Tangaroa will test the country's readiness for and reaction to the impact of a tsunami. It takes place over three days with the next two days in September.

Emergency manager Matthew Smith said the Whanganui District Council's emergency operations centre will be activated for the day to practice procedures.

"We are treating this as a learning activity for our team, going through the revised tsunami evacuation zones, confirming communications with the emergency co-ordination centre at Horizons Regional Council and identifying any gaps in our planning," Mr Smith said.


He said while Whanganui has a lower risk of tsunami than many other coastal areas of New Zealand, any coastal area could be at risk. There are already a number of tsunami evacuation zones along the Whanganui coast with the main ones in the Castlecliff/Heads Rd area, Mowhanau and Airport/South Beach.

Mr Smith said the timing of the exercise had worked out well for the Whanganui Civil Defence team.

"From September through to December residents in the coastal areas of our region, including Horowhenua, Manawatu, Rangitikei, Tararua and Whanganui, will see tsunami evacuation zone information and evacuation route signs put in place.

"This project has been funded by the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management and will provide very visible reminders of what action to take if a tsunami is possible," he said.

He said during the exercise the centre staff will focus using the national emergency management information system (EMIS) with a view to declaring it fully operational by year's end.

"It will also identify if any improvements need to be made to our recently reviewed tsunami plans for the Whanganui district. And it will let us look at alternative public warning systems instead of traditional 'door knocking' teams."