Hawke's Bay residents urged to be ready for Japan 2011-style tsunami

The only warning people will get is a long, strong earthquake.
The only warning people will get is a long, strong earthquake. Photo credit: Getty Images

Experts say it's a matter of when, not if, Hawke's Bay will be hit by a tsunami - and it could be as large as the one which decimated Japan in 2011.

Ian Macdonald, the group controller for Hawke's Bay Emergency Management, is driving a campaign to educate Hawke's Bay residents about what they need to do to stay safe in the event of a tsunami.

He says the only warning people will get is a long, strong earthquake. Any other messaging cannot be relied upon, as it might not reach residents before a tsunami does.

"Don't wait for an official warning or advice. We don't have time to warn the occupants of more than 20,000 properties. We need people to have a plan and 'get gone'."

Macdonald says many people think tsunami sirens will go off, but this isn't true.

"We'll never use sirens to warn for a local-source tsunami in Hawke's Bay. There won't be time for an official warning, and the siren system would likely be damaged or without power after the shaking, which is what happened in Japan, even with their modern fixed sirens."

He says while many people know the mantra "Long or Strong, Get Gone" - which means people should evacuate if they feel an earthquake longer than a minute, or which makes it hard to stand - fewer people know which properties in Hawke's Bay would need to evacuate.

To make it clear, Hawke's Bay Emergency Management will be dropping off a letter and a letterbox sticker to all homes and businesses within the evacuation zones.

"If a long or strong earthquake is felt, everyone in all of the tsunami evacuation zones needs to 'get gone'," he says. 

Anyone within the evacuation zone should know where they need to evacuate once the shaking stops - uphill as quickly as possible.

Shoes and a torch should also be kept close by with an emergency grab-bag holding medications, pet food, water and light-weight snacks ready to go as well.