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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

What's the plan, Rick?

NZ Herald reports:
Civil Defence Minister Rick Barker today hit back at claims the Government's emergency planning was insufficient and would result in total confusion. Wellington and Canterbury Civil Defence emergency managers (CDEM) have criticised planning after the recent tsunami false alarm.
[...]
He [the Minister] added: "We do have a plan...if a tsunami was on its way to New Zealand we would have warning.
"We would press all the bells necessary to alert people through police, fire, civil defence emergency groups and we would have a very powerful and a very coordinated response. Of that I am very confident."


Not the first time a Minister has been very confident about something so very, obviously, ineffective or even non-existent. The bit I like best is: "We would press all the bells necessary to alert people. But, Mr Barker, there are no bells!

In pursuit of my project to have a one minute of silence at 1pm on Anzac Day - signalled by sirens - I contacted the Civil Defence chief of Auckland and asked what system of emergency sirens we have. He told me that we have none. None at all. Zero. 1.2 million people in the Auckland Metropolitan area, surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and alongside the fault zone which is at sea... and we have no sirens to alert us! The procedure in case of a tsunami warning would be that the police would drive around the waterfront telling people to evacuate! Right..... so the police would drive down into the kill zone and risk their lives knowing that a tsunami is coming... ? Yeah sure, they may be a bit intellectually sub-normal, but they aren't completely without a sense of self preservation. I'm sure they saw what happened in the Indian Ocean tsunami. The Civil Defence guy said that putting sirens everywhere to avoid complete carnage would cost too much and there were no plans to do this.

At about $4000 for a siren that can be heard at 5km in still air we would not need many to cover the coastal areas. It seems a very small cost to save a lot of lives. They can be tested every ANZAC Day at 1pm. There would without any doubt at all be complete and utter confusion if a tsunami was on it's way now - without any effective way of alerting people or coping with a mass evacuation. The Minister is a moron and a liar. Witnessed today in Parliament when he was answering, trying to weasle his way out of answering, questions by Nick Smith:

"400 agencies," said Rick Barker, "proper provision at a national level," he said, "robust... can be improved," emphasising "robust" again he went on to express confidence in the "National Plan". The man was blathering that "we have poured substantial increases" into it and then mentioned a "60% increase" without any timeframe or context. Then he said the "National plan as it stands is an adequate description..." "description"? A description of a disaster waiting to happen. A description of a dog's breakfast. Barker thinks this "adequate description," where police cars all drive down to the many hundreds of kilometres of coastal roads where they will be killed in an attempt to alert people of impending disaster is "robust." He is truly astounding. But, he says part of this "robust" 2 year plan includes a school programme called "What's the plan, Stan" What about some fucking sirens to alert us so we don't all fucking end up drowned? What about that for a fucking plan? What are kids being told to do - grab an emergency boogey board? Is the programme a brainstorming session so they can report their ideas back to the minister? Is the programme five minutes of silence, staring at a blank blackboard?

Anyway, I will put the siren idea to the Auckland City Council via the Annual Plan submission. Aaron Bhatnagar has also said he would mention it to the C&R Now Councillors. Maybe at least our little patch will have a fighting chance.

The Herald also reports: "Tomorrow Exercise Pacific Wave -- an exercise involving 28 countries around the Pacific -- will test warning procedures." So, nothing at all will be hapenning tomorrow then.

6 Comments:

At 16/5/06 4:21 pm, Blogger Aaron Bhatnagar said...

Tim, indeed I did mention it to Cr Doug Armstrong, who does have some responsibility in Civil Defence. Doug actually does have some good ideas on a Civil Defence idea which leverages the existing infrastructure for mobile phones. I understand there is a draft policy being drawn up regarding this. When I find out more I'll be in touch.

 
At 16/5/06 4:56 pm, Blogger t selwyn said...

Good stuff Aaron. A general text to all cellphones would be an awesome idea. The problem with a lot of the solutions however is what would happen if it was at night/early morning when most people are asleep - they won't be listening on the radio - which is the only way they would likely find out currently. That is why a siren is the most effective method of alert.

And maybe Telecom could do something worthwhile for once and dial every single land line and give them a recorded message (somone with authority like Dougal Stevenson) telling them of the emergency and what they ought to do? With a bit in Chinese at the end for Auckland numbers?

The police would have so many other issues that they need to focus on without having to be human sirens.

I'll put some costs together. They could always try to extract the amount out of central govt.

 
At 16/5/06 5:15 pm, Anonymous jrm said...

Having enquired with my local district council as to the Civil Defense Emergebcy Procedures, (that would be the Rotorua District Council by the way), I was informed that there is no need for a siren warning system in our Region as we are statistically less susceptible to a Tsunami as coastal areas.

Hooray I thought, I am less susceptible to a Tsunami!!!!

Unfortunately for the operator I spoke too however, I then enquired as to the situtaion in case of geothermal or volcanic eruption, given the fact that Rotorua City and the surrounding area sit on top a such activity. ----- The response: In such an emergency local, regional and national civil defense organisations would liase together to determine the best strategy for the given situation and that I should listen to my local radio station for further updates, and remain prepared.

ER WRONG!! - That sounded like, sit around and wait to be burnt in the fires of hell while we determine the safest possible route for our evacuation. Local radio station? Wrong again, we don't have a local radio station, we only have nationally broadcast programmes after 10am. So while I'm burning I would be happy to listen to Classic Hits 98FM Auckland! of 97FM Hamilton!

What concerned me the most was the feeling that they actually have to get toghter and think about it? Er, haven't they already done that already?? No???? Yes????

Maybe I got the operator on the wrong day. I certainly hope so.

In any event I would suggest that we need to have an Emergency Broadcast System, much like the US. Once that siren goes, I should be able to tune my radio to Civil Defence 1100AM or 88FM, anywhere in the country for round the clock updates on whats going on and what to do. I shouldn't have to get a call from London enquiring if I had seen the latest lava flow outside my window, and if I would like to make a comment about it on the BBC!

While sometimes I do wonder what the hell is going on in Wellington, Civil Defense Minister Barker, hiding out in his "underground beehive bunker" safely away from the action, trying to reassure me that this will not happen again, did not do the trick I'm afraid.

 
At 17/5/06 1:05 am, Blogger Antarctic Lemur said...

jrm, the type of volcanic eruption you get in the Rotorua region is not the slow volcano-building one. It is more like an underground nuke which blows a lot of superheated water, ash and rock into the surrounding air, flattening everything just like you'd see in a Hollywood movie. Afterwards the resulting deposits can be 10's-100's of metres thick spread over thousands of square kilometers. There aint much the CD can do about that. Even the minor Tarawera eruption killed pretty most within its significant ash-fall radius.

Of course you might be killed first by the preceeding earthquake swarms...

 
At 18/5/06 1:13 pm, Blogger t selwyn said...

At noon today , Radio NZ reports, the Western Bay of Plenty tested a system of six siredns to warn the low-lying Mt Maunganui area of a tsunami. They said it went well. Auckland could have the same thing.

 
At 19/5/06 2:50 pm, Blogger t selwyn said...

It all went badly as it turns out and I suppose if it was real many people would be killed - but good old local govt. - they can always be trusted to pretend everything is fine because the only information they base their reasoning on is from their own staff. Maybe Radio NZ was just recycling press releases as Ryan said on today's nine to noon show:

From the NZ Herald:

Tsunami siren silence deafening

Friday May 19, 2006
By Juliet Rowan

From Waihi Beach to Pukehina, people waited to hear the midday silence shattered.

At Mt Maunganui, a group of schoolchildren interrupted an outing to the beach to count down the seconds to the moment when they expected to hear an ear-splitting din.

One boy had even brought along a pair of earmuffs, expecting the noise of the tsunami warning system to be deafening.

Instead, he and many others were unable to hear anything from the 10 sirens spread across the Western Bay of Plenty, provoking criticism of yesterday's highly publicised test and casting doubt on the effectiveness of the new system.

Officials of the coastal region sprang into damage control after the 10-second activation of the sirens, saying the test's main purpose was to see if they were working.

"From our perspective, everything worked 100 per cent," said Barry Low, manager of Western Bay Emergency Management and Civil Defence.

But publication of the test in local and national media, prompted by a press release from the Tauranga District Council, had led many in the region to expect the sirens to blare into life - and provoked anger when they didn't.

"When you advertise something, you've got to do it properly," said Tania Young, one of several mothers accompanying Pillans Point School schoolchildren on their outing at Mt Maunganui's Main Beach. "If it's a tsunami warning, you should hear it anywhere. It's got to be powerful enough to get you out of bed," she said.

Another mother, Allison Kingsford, said officials may have wanted just to test the sirens with a quick burst, but hearing them would have made people feel safer.

Mr Low said the system would be tested again in three months and the sirens would sound for at least 30 seconds. This would allow Civil Defence to determine "dead areas" that potentially needed more sirens.

In a real tsunami, the sirens would sound continuously for 10 to 30 minutes, acting as a signal for people to turn on their radios and listen for further instructions.

Mt Maunganui mother of two Yvonne Curragh said a dependable warning system in the low-lying area was "hugely important".


10 seconds? What's the fucking point? Knob ends! A good result is that everyone heard it. They did not. ... hopeless.

 

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