On Thursday 14 March 2019, between 10.30am – 12.30pm, Ōpōtiki Primary School will be practicing their tsunami evacuation route as part of the national Tsunami Hikoi Week.
11 March marks the eighth anniversary of the Japanese Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. Civil Defence Emergency Management is encouraging locals to mark the occasion by thinking about what might happen if an earthquake or tsunami event occurred here in the Ōpōtiki district and the plans each person and whānau has in place to get inland or to higher ground.
Emergency Management Advisor, Meagan Edhouse, said that although such an event is rare, a large earthquake or tsunami could devastate the local communities.
"Such a large number of people live and work in coastal areas in the Ōpōtiki District so it is even more important that businesses, schools and childcare centres in tsunami evacuation zones identify their nearest safe zone and do a "Tsunami Hīkoi" drill to higher ground.
"Centres across the country will be carrying out drills during March and Tony Howe, Principal at Ōpōtiki Primary School has worked hard to initiate the event here in Ōpōtiki. We have worked with Tony to set a date and make sure there is traffic management in place and Police, Council and other authorities are all aware and working together on Thursday 14 March.
"It is a great opportunity for the school to be the first to trial a hikoi event for the Ōpōtiki township, and we are certain that this will raise public awareness with the large number of students and teachers that will be involved, walking a well-marked and safety-marshalled course. Walking the route is so much more powerful than looking at a map," Ms Edhouse said.
It is also timely to consider personal and whānau plans for an emergency, for example a friend's house in a safe zone.
"For a local source tsunami, which could arrive in minutes, there won't be time for an official warning. It is important to recognise the natural warning signs and act quickly," Ms Edhouse said.
If you are at the coast and experience any of the following:
- Feel a strong earthquake that makes it hard to stand up, or a long earthquake that lasts a minute or more
- See a sudden rise or fall in sea level
- Hear loud and unusual noises from the sea.
Move immediately to the nearest high ground, or as far inland as you can.
"In our workplaces and schools and childcare centres, we practice "drop, cover and hold" and fire drills. We should also practise our "long or strong get gone" evacuation route and Thursday is a great opportunity to do so" Ms Edhouse said.
Emergency Management Advisors will be on site at the finish area at OPAC to provide advice and information to the public on tsunami and how to prepare.
More information on Tsunami evacuations is available on our Tsunami Evacuation Information page.