Review of Napier's warning sirens after confusion caused in wake of Monday quake
The future of Napier's public warning sirens looks uncertain following the confusion caused by mixed messages issued after Monday's earthquake.
The sirens were not activated after the North Canterbury quake shortly after midnight, despite the local Civil Defence Emergency Management team advising people on Facebook at 2.30am to "move to higher ground now" due to the tsunami risk.
Some residents self evacuated, others evacuated on the advice given at 2.30am, but others had waited for the sirens before evacuating.
Napier City Council chief executive officer Wayne Jack said the purpose of the sirens, which had been in place since 1963, "was not and never has been a warning of a tsunami".
This is despite the council website stating "The sirens are not just for tsunami warnings - they are for any threat the public needs to know about".
Jack said the purpose of the sirens was to tell people to listen to their radios.
Despite Civil Defence team urging people to get to higher ground on Monday morning, Jack did not believe it was an occasion where the sirens were needed.
Which raises the question of why the council has the sirens, and why there are two well publicised tests of the sirens each year.
Asked why the sirens are still in place when he considered them "ineffective", Jack said it was "because public opinion polls indicate they are still wanted".
Jack said if the sirens had been used on Monday they "would have caused mass panic and mass evacuation, which was not necessary and potentially dangerous".
He said the only time the sirens were likely to be used was for a regional or distant source tsunami "where we have time to plan and get the public information in place to broadcast about an evacuation".
There were no plans to do away with the sirens, but there would be a review of their use "especially if a national warning system is implemented".
"There is further education that we need to do with the community around warning signs of a potential tsunami and getting people to connect with the message of "long and strong get gone", Jack said.
Hawke's Bay emergency management group manager Ian MacDonald said that the issues raised following Monday's quake meant it would be "useful" to have a discussion with senior management and the Mayors and committee chairs of Napier City and Hastings District councils about the use of sirens.