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Tsunami Sirens

What Happening with Tsunami Sirens?

Recently, TCDC announced that it was disconnecting all Tsunami sirens in the Coromandel. Here is some background information and an explanation of why we do not oppose TCDC’s decision.

National Directive
NEMA (National Emergency Management Agency) has developed new technical standards for tsunami warning sirens. This means that our district-wide tsunami sirens are now non-compliant and Council has been directed to disconnect them by NEMA.

The FENZ Connection
Thames-Coromandel has the largest number of sirens nationally (27) and 18 of those belong to Fire and Emergency NZ (FENZ), who have made a national decision to withdraw third party access to their sirens.
These will be disconnected in September this year. It is interesting to note that we are the last region to disconnect our sirens in the country.

There are Better Alternatives
Here are some keys things Council has discovered when investigating alternatives:

  1. It’s not possible to retrofit an existing siren to the new standards
  2. New sirens could cost between $80,000 and $300,000 each, depending on location, consenting, access to power and broadband etc. The overall cost for Coromandel would around $10m which would result in an increase in our rates of about $200 p.a.
  3. Sirens are the least effective tool for alerting communities – 43% as opposed to Emergency Mobile Alerts (EMA) which have a >70% effectiveness.
  4. If there is a major event there’s no time for official warnings as demonstrated by the Japanese tsunami in 2011.

Are we at risk?
Experts have established that natural warning signs such as earthquakes would be the most effective pre-warning system of a potential tsunami. If a magnitude 8+ earthquake hit, it’s likely we’d all feel its effects and then… if it’s long and strong, get gone.

Read a FAQ document the Council has compiled here which gives background on the decision and the proposed alternative alert options, and the council website here.

If you would like to understand tsunamis in detail, GNS has prepared a detailed 222-page report on Tsunami Hazards in New Zealand. You can find it here.

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