Quakes put focus on civil defence

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The Kaikoura earthquakes have given community boards a chance to review their civil defence procedures, Otago Peninsula Community Board chairman Paul Pope says.
While the fire brigade had done “very, very well” evacuating people from the low-lying peninsula areas after the tsunami warning was issued on the morning of November 14, there was still some confusion about where residents needed to go, Mr Pope said.
He was working with civil defence and other groups to work out how better to help the peninsula community understand evacuation procedures, gain community feedback and let people know about low-lying areas on the peninsula.
“In anything, you can always do better,” he said. “I hope all boards have a review.”
Across the harbour, West Harbour Community Board chairman Steve Walker said the event should be seen as a “wake-up call” after a “general sense of disorganisation” during evacuation.
The Fire Service had called him at 3am about obtaining a key _ which he did not have _ to the Port Chalmers Town Hall, where evacuated Aramoana residents were to be housed.
Since then, the board had resolved that issue and the Fire Service now had its own key for the hall, Mr Walker said.
There had also been some confusion about the meaning of the sirens, so Mr Walker suggested a nationwide tsunami siren as one option to dispel this confusion.
Saddle Hill Community Board chairman Scott Weatherall said the Saddle Hill fire siren had also hampered the early-morning evacuation, as it could ring for only two minutes at a time rather than continuously.
The board had been working on a civil defence plan since the June 2015 floods and was now updating it to include more information about earthquakes and tsunami risks, especially as some residents had been unsure about who needed to evacuate and where to go, he said.
However, he had been pleased to see the hospitality of residents come to the fore during the evacuation, residents from low-lying areas being welcomed into the homes of friends and strangers in the middle of the night. “That’s really cool,” he said.
Waikouaiti Coast Community Board chairman Alasdair Morrison said his board was producing a leaflet, which would be distributed to all residents in the board’s area, informing residents about evacuation alarms and what to do, after there had been a “bit of confusion” during the evacuation procedures.
It would also have a map of low-lying areas at risk in a tsunami, Mr Morrison said.
Mosgiel-Taieri board chairwoman Sarah Nitis said the board had two civil defence plans – one for Mosgiel and another for Outram – that were in the “final stages” of work.
The area had several “unique” issues, flooding and fires having the potential to cut off the area from the main part of Dunedin.
While the Strath Taieri Community Board area was at no risk during a tsunami, the area needed to be prepared for other disasters, such as earthquakes, chairman Barry Williams said. “We can’t be too confident.”