Quake site for big Civil Defence exercise
Denise Montgomery | Wednesday, July 4, 2012 16:02
A timely new website has been launched that collates information from a number of agencies about earthquake hazards.
The website shakeout.govt.nz brings together information from various regional agencies into one site, which will be the central hub for people participating in the New Zealand ShakeOut. ShakeOut is a Civil Defence exercise that aims to have one million people involved in an earthquake drill at 9.26am on September 26. (ie 09.26 on 26.09).
Tuesday's magnitude 7.0 earthquake, off the coast of Opunake, was widely felt from Christchurch to the Hawke's Bay and was a slice of the real thing for many, but with it occurring at 10.36pm there was some consternation from the public online about where it could get official information. Of particular concern was whether there was a tsunami warning, with the quake occurring off the coast of Taranaki.
Civil Defence spokesperson Vince Cholewa says in an emergency people can head to www.civildefence.govt.nz, or CD's Twitter feed for official information,as well as the CD broadcasters (see bottom of story). He said the CD site provides frequently updated public information during emergencies. Sites like ShakeOut will also become useful with all the links to regional agencies.
Why prepare in Auckland?
Although Auckland isn't prone to earthquakes, it does get some from time to time, says Clive Manley, Auckland Council's Manager of Civil Defence and Emergency.
He says ShakeOut draws together information from the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management, GNS Science, 16 regional Civil Defence emergency management groups and the local authorities that make up the groups.
He says it's also good for Aucklanders who may be travelling to other parts of the country to know what to do if they were there when an earthquake hit. Each region's page links to the Get Thru website, which gives information that can be used throughout the country to prepare for all Civil Defence emergencies, including earthquakes.
Mr Cholewa says the information prepared for New Zealand ShakeOut will continue to be available to the public after the campaign ends. It will be an additional CD resource along with the current ones which are:
www.civildefence.govt.nz Provides frequently updated public information during emergencies, including through Twitter and RSS feeds. Outside of emergencies it is the website used to post information for the civil defence sector and is the home website.
www.getthru.govt.nz is part of the Get Ready Get Thru campaign. It provides preparedness information for the public about what to do before, during and after emergencies.
www.whatstheplanstan.govt.nz Is part of the schools' programme - What's the Plan Stan?
Any one wanting to take part in the ShakeOut exercise needs to register through the site here - so far more than 210,000 people are taking part. It is an initiative that first began in Southern California in 2008. Civil Defence says the Taranaki quake showed all NZ is prone to earthquakes, and was a good reminder of why to participate.
Radio NZ and TVNZ are listed in the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act as lifeline utilities, which puts some responsibilities on them to be able to broadcast in emergencies.
The Ministry of Civil Defence also has separate memoranda of understandings with TVNZ, TV3, the Radio Broadcasters' Association and Radio NZ under which all have agreed to broadcast vital public safety announcements during emergencies.
TVNZ broadcast news of last night's big quake during its Tonight bulletin but had no details online until 5.36am on Wednesday morning, although it did make some social media announcements. Radio NZ had details in its midnight bulletin and updated its website just before 1am.
GNS Science (geonet.org.nz) also provided information through Twitter and online, which was subsequently conveyed by many radio stations around NZ.
However last night's quake wasn't an official emergency - therefore Civil Defence did not tweet about it. However its magnitude meant many people were worried, and there was misinformation. Asked to explain today if it might have been better if CD, as a reputable authority, should have used the social media tool to allay fears, Mr Cholewa admitted that could have been an option.
"It was a judgment call made last night, but if it happened tonight we might do it differently," he said. He said it was something that had been discussed today by Civil Defence. He agreed putting out accurate information via Twitter would have helped counter the misinformation relayed by other users of social media.
Did last night's quake shake you up? Will you participate in ShakeOut? Comment below or head to our Facebook page.