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It's time to disconnect 'ineffective' tsunami sirens

04 March 2021

The paging system triggering the 27 tsunami sirens around the Coromandel will start to be disconnected over the next few months – to be completed by the end of September.

Tsunami siren disconnection 

(Right: A tsunami siren)

The paging system triggering the 27 tsunami sirens around the Coromandel will start to be disconnected over the next few months – to be completed by the end of September.

This was endorsed at our Council’s Emergency Management Committee meeting today.

You can watch the recording of the meeting here

You can read the agenda for this meeting, and other meetings, on our website

“All but nine of the sirens are attached to the Fire and Emergency NZ (FENZ) network and they have requested we disconnect them so that they can make improvements. But also, as a tsunami alerting tool, they are only 44 per cent effective, in fact they're the least effective method of this type of alert. It’s time to get on and use new technological methods which will give us at least 93% effective coverage,” says Garry Towler, our Emergency Management Manager.

In July 2020, our Council received a letter from the Director of Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) advising us to disconnect the 27 tsunami sirens within our district, nine of which are on Council land or attached to Council buildings. Since July 2020, we’ve been working with FENZ on how we can disconnect our siren pager network and what processes will be used once they are disconnected.

“For a lot of people, sirens are what they’ve known all their lives, and this will be a significant change,” says Mr Towler. “We’ll be kicking off a public campaign, to help educate people and answer any questions, which will be done in conjunction with our Emergency Management team and FENZ.”

‘It’s estimated that over the peak summer period, with the use of technology we can currently reach 93 per cent of the population,” says Mr Towler. “By the time the sirens are disconnected, this will hopefully be at 96 per cent. For people in remote areas who may not receive alerts, other systems and awareness education will be used.”

“We’ll be installing prominent signage on beaches, which will help raise awareness. It’s the technology and the signage working together that’ll help our system improve,” says Mr Towler.

Our website has information about what you can do in an emergency and how you can be alerted.

Read more in the official report here

This was the first Emergency Management Committee meeting for the year - the last meeting was held on 9 December in preparation for a very dry summer.

“It was a good summer, we had no major water issues, solid waste had a few problems as it’s always 'maxed' out over the peak period. We also had no major storms or cyclones. We didn’t dodge a bullet, we were just well prepared,” says Mr Towler.

In other Committee highlights: 

District Emergency Manager's Report 

There was extra water conservation and fire ban messaging which helped to raise awareness and keep the issues to a minimum.

This included using four mobile variable message sign (VMS) trailers, which were placed at strategic spots around the district, displaying water restriction messaging. A digital conserve water campaign our Council ran over the “peak,” summer also worked well. We committed to meeting 436,000 “online impressions,” (that’s the metric used to quantify the number of digital views or engagements of a piece of content), and we delivered double that - 826,899 impressions.

“It was very much a team effort - with the Council staff and our local communities working together,” says Mr Towler.

He also reported on COVID-19, reiterating that it’s an ongoing situation, that requires constant resurgence planning.

“We’re always involved and having conversations with agencies and stakeholders,” says Mr Towler. “At the moment, the emergency management team is working on locations for winter drive-through testing sites, if they're needed, such as retired petrol stations that have a canopy."

Read the full report here

Remember to keep using the COVID tracer app and signing in to places you visit.  And stay home if you’re sick. 

Recovery Manager appointed

(Right: Our Civil Defence team with Mr Towler, Recovery Manager, on the right)

Mr Towler has been endorsed by the committee as our Council’s Recovery Manager.

Once it's decided an emergency has ended, the Recovery Manager takes over from the Controller and facilitates all immediate, short-term and long-term recovery actions such as: ongoing welfare requirements, community liaison, community, road and infrastructure repairs, and depending on the scale of an emergency, planning for the future as communities rebuild for greater resilience.

Previously, our Council has had two Recovery Managers, appointed under contract, this arrangement worked well until both Recovery Managers retired from the role over the past 12 months.

Mr Towler will still be our Civil Defence Controller. New guidelines for recovery were also released in October 2020 that allowed the Civil Defence Controller to also take on the Recovery Manager role.

Read more about the position here

Community Response Brochures

(Above: Example of a community response plan poster)

We now have 25 community response brochures available within our district, which reflect the needs of all our local communities.

“The community response brochures reflect a local community’s planned response to different types of emergencies,” says Pam Balt, Emergency Management Officer.

"We have processes established to protect our communities and enhance our connection with communities,” says Ms Balt.

Community response is also about education. Each community has a poster and brochure outlining how to be prepared for emergencies and what to do if one happens. The posters can be printed and displayed, and the brochures can be printed and placed in letterboxes and around the community.

You can find the response plan for your community on our website

The Emergency Management Committee congratulated the team on completing all the brochures and signalled it would now like to look at rebuilding a Thames Welfare Group, in case of an emergency, which will encompass a response plan for the Thames Ward.

The Emergency Management Committee includes Councillor Sally Christie (Chair), Councillors Martin Rodley, Robyn Sinclair, Terry Walker, and Garry Towler.