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Northland tsunami siren testing at beginning of daylight saving

15 Sep 2020, 1:20 PM

Northland Civil Defence Emergency Management Group  logo.

Northland’s tsunami siren test will take place at the beginning of daylight saving on Sunday 27 September.

The network of more than 200 outdoor tsunami sirens in coastal communities, from Te Hapua in the north to Mangawhai in the south and Ruawai in the west, is checked twice a year, coinciding with the start and finish of daylight saving.

However the test earlier this year was cancelled due to the country being in the nationwide lockdown for COVID-19 Alert Level 4, meaning 12 months has now passed since the last test.

Northland Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) Group spokesperson Victoria Harwood acknowledged that some people are still unsettled by the events of the year; however, it is important to continue to test the siren network so that any faults can be identified and repaired.

“We’re asking people in coastal communities to help by ensuring their neighbours are aware that the test is coming up on 27 September.”

The sirens sound twice: firstly at 10am for 10 minutes and then again at 10.30am for 30 seconds, and will be monitored for any faults.

Indoor sirens will be tested at the same time as the outdoor network. Test alerts will also be sent to users of the Red Cross Hazard app, which can be downloaded for free.

Northland’s tsunami sirens are funded and owned by the region’s three district councils (Far North, Whangarei and Kaipara) and operated in a partnership which also includes the two electricity networks (Northpower and Top Energy).

The Auckland region is planning to test its tsunami sirens on the same day – and included in that test for the first time are two newly-installed sirens in Orewa which also have voice instruction technology.

Northland CDEM Group has been working on a proposal to upgrade the Northland tsunami siren network with similar functionality.

The Northland tsunami siren network has progressively been developed since 2007, with a total of 205 sirens installed over that time. However, they will eventually reach the end of their expected life and will need to be either replaced or upgraded. Mrs Harwood says newer siren options have greater reach – meaning fewer sirens would be required as replacements – and the voice instruction functionality means specific messages about the tsunami threat and the required actions can be provided in addition to a siren sound.

The cost of the upgrade has been estimated at $4.5 million and is being progressed through the current Long Term Plan (LTP) processes of Northland’s four councils.

Mrs Harwood added that people should also be aware of the risk of local source tsunami (those generated on or close to the coast), which could arrive ahead of any official warning. “Everyone who spends time on the coast needs to know the natural warning signs of tsunami – a strong earthquake that is hard to stand up in or one that lasts longer than a minute, or out-of-the ordinary sea behaviour, such as sudden rise or fall and/or unusual noise.”

To hear Northland’s outdoor and indoor tsunami sirens online visit www.nrc.govt.nz/tsunamisirens