A New Zealand Red Cross exercise has left about 200 properties situated between the Waitotara Valley and Waiinu Beach better equipped to overcome a natural disaster.
From Friday, November 29, to Sunday, December 1, 40 Red Cross volunteers from around the lower North Island took part in Exercise Mowhanau, which included community outreach to those most likely to be affected in a disaster.
Tori Bisset, Red Cross' disaster welfare and support team leader in Whanganui, said overall the weekend was successful and there was a lot of community engagement.
"It was good chance for us to all get together and get us used to training with other teams instead of just our own team," Bisset said.
Training began on Friday with the teams receiving a pre-deployment activation text message about a weather warning and what looked like a storm event.
On Saturday morning, local Civil Defence personnel joined the volunteers for an exercise with indications the storm had now turned into a tsunami.
Bisset said they began doing evacuations along Kai Iwi Beach and Ototoka Beach and got the beaches cleared by 10.30am.
In the afternoon they headed to South Beach to deal with "reports of people still missing".
There were 12 role players scattered from the South Mole and along the river bank.
"It was pretty hard on the Saturday for everyone but the main thing was we saved all our role players, none of our team got hurt which is quite a rarity and they're all safe and happy," Bisset said.
On Sunday they went to Waiinu Beach and set up an area for people to get information on what to do in a natural disaster.
From there, volunteers carried out community outreach to about 200 properties.
Bisset said they did a needs assessment survey to provide residents with advice on what to do if they became isolated during a natural disaster.
"Waitotara got completely cut off in the 2015 floods and they didn't have a lot of the know-how or where to go."
She said households were given Civil Defence packs with information about what to do, where to go and what they need to be prepared for an emergency.
Bisset said all properties in Waitotara Valley were surveyed and around 95 per cent of the beach settlement properties were visited.
"They were all very happy to see us and get more information which was really good to see.
"It was a good learning for everybody over the whole weekend. We had our highs and our lows but we got through them."
She said the Red Cross disaster response teams tried to train in realistic situations to get prepared for a real disaster.
This year Red Cross teams have responded to a range of emergency events, including the Christchurch mosque attacks, Rotorua bus crash and Nelson-Tasman fires.