Kāpiti Council staff and agency representatives joined others from across the Wellington region, donning their emergency management vests this week and delved into Exercise Parawhenua – a scenario which focused on a tsunami that would affect the whole of New Zealand’s Coastline.
The exercise scenario focussed on a 9.1 magnitude earthquake occurring off the coast of Chile which generated a tsunami that would take 12-14 hours to reach the Wellington region. The tsunami waves in this scenario would affect the region’s Red and Orange Tsunami Evacuation Zones.
Wellington Civil Defence and Emergency Management (CDEM) Group Controller Mark Duncan says these exercises provide an opportunity for Civil Defence to improve the way they respond to major emergencies.
“We run regular exercises to strengthen relationships with partner agencies and organisations and to test our emergency response plans, process and procedures.
“Our ultimate goal is to minimise the negative impacts that major disasters can have on our communities,” Mark says.
To coordinate the response, the region practised activating its six council Emergency Operations Centres (EOC) and the regional Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC), involving over 180 council staff and more than 30 partner agency staff.
A range of partner agencies play a key role in a scenario like this, including Police, Fire and Emergency NZ, Wellington Free Ambulance, NZ Defence Force, Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Business Innovation & Employment, Waka Kotahi, District Health Boards and Regional Public Health.
“The focus of the exercise was to provide timely and accurate information to the public to keep people informed of the risks of tsunami and the actions they can take to look after themselves and others, to coordinate the evacuation of the region’s Red and Orange Zones, and to look after people impacted or displaced by tsunami waves.
“Each exercise was evaluated, and while there are always areas to improve on going forward, our dedicated teams did a great job responding to this scenario under realistic time pressures,” Mark says.
A key finding from these exercises, as was highlighted during the earthquake and tsunami events of March 5, is the importance of people knowing their tsunami zones, and where to go for safety, Mark explains.
“To find out whether you live, work or play in a tsunami zone go to www.wremo.nz/hazards/tsunami-zones/ or your local council website. It’s also a good idea to follow our WREMOnz facebook page for up-to-date information and advice during an emergency.”no