Tsunami Frequently Asked Questions

What is a tsunami?  

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Tsunami are large and powerful ocean waves that can grow in size as they reach the shore. Some tsunami have been known to travel for thousands of kilometres across the ocean and travel at speeds of up to 800km per hour. 

What causes a tsunami?  

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The most common cause is a sea floor earthquake. Other triggers are under sea landslides, under sea volcanic eruptions, and meteorite impact. Sudden changes to the sea floor cause the ocean to flow away from the disturbance, creating waves. To find out more about tsunami see GNS Science

How do I know if I am in a tsunami zone?

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There is an online map where you can search your address. You can also view pdf maps and print and keep them as part of your emergency plan. We recommend knowing where your zones are for home, work, schools, sports grounds or other places you regularly visit. 

What are tsunami blue lines?

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Many areas across the Wellington region have a blue line painted across roads and footpaths which show the safe places to evacuate to if there is a long or strong earthquake. The blue lines show the maximum possible run-up heights (worst case scenario) and are based on scientific modelling by GNS Science and Greater Wellington Regional Council. The Tsunami Blue Lines are not in all parts of the region. 

When should I evacuate? 

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  1. If you feel an earthquake that is either Long (longer than a minute) OR Strong (strong enough that it’s hard to stand up), evacuate immediately after the shaking stops. Do not wait for an official warning. The earthquake is your warning that there could be a tsunami. Get to the nearest high ground, or as far inland as possible. 
  2. If a national warning has been issued and you are told to evacuate by authorities. 

What should I do if I'm in a high-rise building? 

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After a long or strong earthquake a tsunami may reach Wellington in as little as 10 minutes. We recommend evacuating out of all tsunami zones (red, orange and yellow) rather than staying in your building.

For further information see WREMO’s statement about Vertical Evacuation.

For information on what to do if you live in a high-rise building, click here.

How will I be warned of a tsunami threat?

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A long or strong earthquake is the natural warning for a tsunami - If you feel an earthquake that is long OR strong, evacuate as soon as the shaking stops. Do not wait for an official warning.

If an earthquake occurs in the Pacific Islands or further away, we may not feel it. If there is a tsunami threat to New Zealand, a national warning will be issued and WREMO can provide alerts and information on areas, if any, that need to be evacuated. This can be done through radio, TV broadcasts, social media (WREMO Facebook and Twitter), WREMO and local council websites, and Emergency Mobile Alerts.

Why is an earthquake my only warning for a local tsunami?

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If you FEEL an earthquake that is either longer than a minute OR strong enough that it’s hard to stand up, this could be big enough to cause a tsunami that reaches Wellington region shores within 10 minutes.

In a big earthquake like this it is likely that communications and infrastructure will be damaged and will not work. People need to know that a long or strong earthquake is your natural warning that there could be a tsunami generated and evacuate immediately without being told.

How should I evacuate? 

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Walk, run, or cycle if you can.

Vehicles should only be used by emergency services and those with mobility impairments. For those who can't walk or cycle, such as those with mobility impairments, driving is their only option, and you could be preventing them from evacuating safely.

If you need help evacuating or know someone that does, have a conversation with your neighbours about how everyone can get out safely. 

What is a local-source tsunami?

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A local-source tsunami is one that has been generated by an earthquake in or near New Zealand. In this case, we feel the earthquake. If this earthquake is either long or strong, it is our natural warning that a tsunami could have been generated and you must evacuate immediately after the shaking stops if you are in a tsunami zone. This type of tsunami could arrive in as little as 10 minutes. 

What is a distance-source tsunami?  

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A distant-source tsunami is one that has been generated from an earthquake that has occurred away from New Zealand, such as in the Pacific Islands, or off the coast of South America. If the earthquake occurs near the Pacific Islands, the travel time to New Zealand is 1 to 3 hours. If the earthquake occurs off the coast of South America, the travel time to New Zealand is up to 12 hours. 

Where do I evacuate to? 

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Evacuate to the nearest high ground or as far inland as possible outside the tsunami zones, past the blue lines if your district has them. Identify your quickest route to get out of the zone by looking at the tsunami zone maps, and remember to practise your evacuation so you know where to go. 

Why does the Wellington region not have tsunami sirens? 

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See information on why we don't have tsunami sirens, here.

I have heard sirens in Wellington before, what are these for? 

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The sirens you hear could be the Volunteer Fire Stations alerting volunteers that there is a fire to respond to. Lower Hutt has flood sirens which were installed in the 1970’s for flood warnings, not tsunamis. The sirens are in flood areas, not in tsunami risk areas – for example there are sirens in Manor Park and Wainuiomata, which are not in any tsunami evacuation zone. These won't be used for tsunami. 

Where do I go for information during an emergency?  

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Listen to the news and radio and follow WREMO on Facebook and Twitter. Updates will also go on this website and local council websites. 
WREMO Facebook: @WREMOnz 
WREMO Twitter: @WREMOinfo 

What is an Emergency Mobile Alert?  

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Emergency Mobile Alerts are messages sent by authorised emergency agencies, to mobile phones. The alerts are designed to keep people safe and are broadcast to all capable phones from targeted cell towers. The alerts can be targeted to areas affected by serious hazards and will only be sent when there is a serious threat to life, health, or property, and, in some cases, for test purposes. To find out more click here.

What is the Tsunami Ready App?  

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The Tsunami Ready App was created by Alphero in partnership with WREMO. The app was designed as an education tool to raise awareness for people who live, work or play in a tsunami zone, to help people plan how they will evacuate in the event of a tsunami. The tsunami app is a preparedness and education planning tool to use before an event occurs to find out how many minutes you are from the nearest safe zone.

The app also helps you practice your evacuation routes. Find out more: Tsunami Ready App  

Can I use the Tsunami Ready app outside of the Wellington region?  

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The app is currently being piloted in Greater Wellington region. Alphero are hoping to include other regions in New Zealand in the future. You can search addresses in the Wellington region to see if they are safe and share those with friends and whānau. But you cannot run a drill or search addresses outside of the Wellington region. 

Community Emergency Hub Frequently Asked Questions

Why do we need Community Emergency Hubs?

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As we saw in the Canterbury earthquakes and other disasters around the world, the community will naturally come together to support one another after a disaster. Strong, connected communities are better prepared to respond to and recover from disasters.
In a major emergency, official responders will need to prioritise the most urgent issues, so it is likely that for the first few days you will need to help each other within your local community. The Hub is a designated place where you can gather, connect with one another and solve problems using the skills and resources which already exist among your community.

When is a Community Emergency Hub needed?

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A Community Emergency Hub is needed when there has been a major emergency where people need assistance, and the support needed is beyond the current capability of council and emergency services.

If official support is available from the council and emergency services, then you probably don't need to open a Hub.

What help and supplies are available at a Community Emergency Hub?

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There is no official assistance at the Hub.

Each Hub has a guide for how to coordinate the sharing of information, skills and resources in the community, and some basic equipment to get people started.

There are no supplies, food, water or blankets stored at Hubs. Our communities are full of beds with blankets on them, and pantries with food in them. You can gather the things you need at the time by asking the local community.

What's the role of WREMO and my council?

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WREMO leads and coordinates emergency management on behalf of the nine councils in the Wellington Region. Our role is to work with communities to plan for emergencies and practise how to organise an emergency response. Get involved by attending an event near you.

View our calendar of events and workshops

How do Hubs fit into the official emergency response?

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Each Community Emergency Hub has a two-way VHF radio in case phones and internet aren't working. The radio will allow the Hub to communicate with the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) for your council area. At the Hub, you can use the radio to communicate about larger issues that your community hasn't been able to solve locally.

Who has access to open a Community Emergency Hub?

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Hubs are often located at community centres or schools, and anyone who has keys can open the doors for the community to use the Hub. This might be staff who live nearby, people who hire the facility regularly, or neighbours who have the keys. If you have the keys, then you can open a Hub when it's needed.

How can I access my Hub if there is no facility map in the guide?

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The location of each Hub is available here. To ensure access in an emergency is possible, WREMO works with facility owners to identify a minimum of six keyholders for each Hub who live in the surrounding area and understand their role in opening the facility after a major event.

Currently, not all Hub guides contain facility maps - WREMO is working with facility owners to create these maps for as close to 100% of Hubs before the end of June 2019. All keyholders have knowledge of the facilities and are aware of the location of Hub resources, so a map of each facility is desirable rather than essential.

Following discussion with facility owners, and contrary to what the current guides indicate, the facility maps will not show the location of the Hub lockboxes for security reasons.

We carry out regular training exercises at the Hubs so that community members can familiarise themselves with the layout of the facility and where the Hub kit is stored. If you would like to know more sign up to attend an event in your area.

Check out our calendar of events and workshops

How is a Community Emergency Hub run and who is in charge?

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Each Hub has a guide with descriptions and lanyards for the roles needed to coordinate an emergency response. These roles are supervisor, communications, information coordination, public information, reception, needs and offers, community space and facilities maintenance. Roles are allocated by agreement between whoever turns up. Anyone can be part of the Hub team on the day.

Can people from a Community Emergency Hub take the things they need from others?

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No.  Everything is through consensus, co-operation, and community generosity. People running the Hub cannot force anyone to provide or do anything that they do not want to do.

What do I do if my Community Emergency Hub doesn't open in an emergency?

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If the Hub has not opened, communities can try and find a keyholder or find another venue to set up the community support.

If the Hub building is damaged or there is a risk to safety from the surrounding area, then the Community Emergency Hub should not be opened.  If this happens, try to find another venue to set up the Hub.

How long does a Community Emergency Hub stay open?

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The Hub can stay open for as long as the community needs to be supported. It might have to move if the facility owners need their space back and will probably close overnight if there is no lighting.

What happened to Civil Defence Centres?

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The name was giving the impression that there would be official help available, but with 127 locations across the region, this is not the reality. To avoid confusion, we changed the name to Community Emergency Hubs to show that they are opened and run by the community when for some reason official help can't get there. Some of the street signs still say Civil Defence Centres and need to be changed.

How can I learn more about Community Emergency Hubs?

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Water Tank Storage Frequently Asked Questions

How do I keep my collected water safe?

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The Ministry of Health's HealthEd website has information on how to keep the tank water safe to drink.

Water collection tanks and safe household water | HealthEd 

What is the size of the tank?

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The tank holds 200 litres of water. It is 1200 mm high, 650 mm wide, weighs 7.5 kg when empty and can fit into the backseat of most cars. 

Do I have to boil the water?

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Yes. Health professionals recommend boiling water before drinking.

The Ministry of Health's HealthEd website has information on how to keep water in your water collection tank safe to drink. 

Water collection tanks and safe household water | HealthEd

Do I have to clean the tank?

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It is recommended that you empty, clean, and refill your tank at least once a year. 

What colour choices are there?

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Tanks are available in heritage green and birch grey. 

Can I link more than one tank together?

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Yes. A series of water tanks can be connected. You will need to buy additional material (connecting pipes/hose) from your local hardware store. 

Do I have to fit the tank to a downpipe?

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No. The tank can be used to store 200L of tap water, which should be refreshed every 12 months. It can then be connected to the downpipe in an emergency. This is a good option if you are renting. If you choose to store tap water, then ensure all holes are covered. 

What is the tank made of?

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UV-resistant, food-grade plastic. It is certified as meeting New Zealand standards for water storage. 

Are they easy to install?

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Yes, the diverter kit can be installed by most home handy people. The tank comes with installation instructions and there is a video available on the Tank Guy website. If you have any concerns, the Tank Guy recommends you seek advice from your local plumber. 

Are these tanks subsidised by ratepayers?

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No. WREMO negotiated a bulk order to provide the tank and fittings at this exceptionally low price (retail price of the same tank and fittings is $265). Council staff and facilities have helped to store and distribute the tanks, keeping the price low. 

What do I do if I encounter a problem with the tank I purchased?

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Any problems should be referred to The Tank Guy, phone 0508 326 8888, through their website, or send them an email

Community Fundraisers

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You can help your school or community group raise funds by selling water tanks! Email  The Tank Guy  for more information.