Christchurch-based Paul Mulvaney sent the following submission to a parliamentary select committee, after the recent Culverden earthquake.
Need to learn from past tragedies
By Paul Mulvaney
In February, 2011 I lost two good friends to the CTV and PGC building collapse in Christchurch.
I hoped that at the very least steps would be taken to prevent such a tragedy arising again.
On 23 March 2012 I presented a submission to various government agencies regarding the Christchurch earthquakes and the painful lessons that could be learned.
Failings in the tsunami warning system
I am therefore distraught that with the earthquake of November 2016 the emergency service system, established to protect people’s lives and wellbeing, failed so badly.
There is plenty of anecdotal evidence of problems with the current system.
For example last week a local business owner (my hairdresser) said that in the area in which she lives (Kaiapoi) the Tsunami siren sounded but it could not be heard in the new houses in that high risk, low-lying area, due to the double glazed windows blocking out the sound.
If it had not been for her teenage children waking her and her partner up they would not have heard the siren.
Another case in point was my nephew and his family living in Christchurch – close to New Brighton beach. The Tsunami sirens could not be heard in that area either.
Caring and preparedness to ensure survival
I acknowledge the difficult work undertaken by the men and women on the front line of the Police, Ambulance, Civil Defence, NZ Defence and other organizations such as Churches and Marae who worked hard to help people in need.
The people who are given the job of caring for the citizens in an emergency must have more definite (finite) instructions which will lessen the confusion.
I understand Survival kits flew out the shop doors.
In Wellington D size torch batteries are unavailable even in the large shops.
That’s another option, an ever-ready transistor radio with batteries.
Leave the sandhill barrier where it is!
Recently in 2016 here in Christchurch certain council members wanted to lower the height of the sandhills so that residents could get a better view of the sea.
It’s those same sandhills that will help protect the coastline and in turn the people. I think they should be protected with either a line of concrete blocks or deep-drilled posts to secure them against normal tides so that they’re in there as a tsunami protection.
Human nature being what is, this ‘‘would be’’ far better than having hundreds of people trapped in cars.
Use cell phone messaging to get the word out
I would be interested to know whether the government has considered using a cellphone warning system in addition to the Tsunami sirens.
In addition a text message or some form of visual warning could be made available to help deaf or hearing -impaired people.
Other alternatives like social media should be considered as options to reach a larger audience.
In summary better sirens in coastal areas, a combination of people communicating among themselves, cell phone warnings, radio notices and the improved siren warnings would be more effective.