Southerly by David Haywood

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Southerly: A Tsunami False Alarm at 2.00 AM was All I Needed

47 Responses

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  • Ben Austin,

    I for one am glad your adrenaline can be converted into blog posts. This seems like a responsible and productive diversion

    London • Since Nov 2006 • 897 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    Oh, love. My mum lives in Kumeu and they too have this siren for when the fire peoples is needed. Quite why, I do not know, because they all have pagers and cellphones. Possibly in the Coromandel, they do not. In Kumeu, apparently it's so traffic knows that there are fire engines coming out of the station. A bit of a shit reason, if you ask me. And doubly shit for all the other reasons you outlined.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3123 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan,

    And, no officer, David Haywood can’t remember the guy’s name – or even, come to think about it, what pub he was in.

    Is admitting excess drunkenness really your best bet in that situation, David?

    But very pleased to hear from you again, even in less than ideal circumstances. I hear you may be heading back to the homestead?

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1273 posts Report Reply

  • Jacqui Dunn,

    So that's where you are, David! I'm glad you're all safe and OK, even if rattled.

    Deepest, darkest Avondale… • Since Jul 2010 • 585 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    A different tone is impossible with the station sirens as they exist, because they're mechanical. Big wind-up motors that make a noise as air passes through their baffles (or whatever they're called). They need three-phase power to drive the motors, they're so large.

    What they need is different sirens for the tsunami system. By all means hang them on the post at the fire station, but they cannot be the same siren because, as you say, duration is not a good way to indicate to people that it's not just the brigade getting tipped out. Especially since it could be two or three cycles of the siren before people reach the station and turn it off, which is enough time for the locals to roll over and go back to sleep.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3925 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    Ok so it takes disasters or the threat of disasters to get you to write.

    Aren't you taking the tortured novelist schtick a bit far?

    Lovely to hear from you though and I hope you are finding it possible to enjoy the beach days.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3444 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    David: Oh,dear. But Cooks Beach is sort of in our neck of the woods so if you are passing through Hammy, do drop by for a cup of tea and piece of cake. We promise no sirens or sundry alarms and only the occasional cat meow. Best to avoid 15-18 April though, as there is considerable din from the V8s and blokes wearing silly hats, roaming around in packs.

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2333 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I saw Jen's tweet about this this morning and thought, that's a crazy way to signal a tsunami alert. As she said, who wants to wait five minutes to find out whether it's a tsunami?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19019 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Jackie Clark,

    Quite why, I do not know, because they all have pagers and cellphones.

    Pagers and cellphones are not infallible. I've been on the end of a Fire Service pager, and they don't always work even in the middle of Auckland. Text messages can take hours, or days, or never arrive at all. Sirens generally work, since they're triggered by telephone signal.

    Whether you agree with the reason or not, the siren is there, the locals are used to it, and the brigade often relies on it.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3925 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Russell Brown,

    As she said, who wants to wait five minutes to find out whether it’s a tsunami?

    Five minutes could be two or three minutes too late. In Japan, that would've cut in half the length of time some people had to get to higher ground.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3925 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    I know the loop precisely! There is only one route into and out of Cooks Beach and you didn't find it! Obviously an April Fooler turned one of the signs around.....?

    At least there is a bit of a dune along most of the beach. Vis a vis Papamoa where early developments bulldozed the 10m high ones down....for the view of it arriving??? For later ones, the council insisted the dunes were kept.

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1502 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    Papamoa has some of the most hideous mansions in NZ. Great,thundering monstrosities with a view of the dunes across the road or, alternatively, their neighbour's bathroom window.

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2333 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    So the guys tearing off next door were probably firemen?

    Nice to hear from you again, the bach sounds like just the ticket for disaster recovery. Sans false tsunami warnings, of course.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8675 posts Report Reply

  • Glenn Pearce,

    I'd have laughed at this if it didn't indicate just how rattled you all are.

    On the up side, you've got a way to go to catch up with these poor buggers ;-)

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=10717660

    Auckland • Since Feb 2007 • 353 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Glenn Pearce,

    LOL, those guys could probably extort money from Governments to just stay away.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8675 posts Report Reply

  • Jacqui Dunn, in reply to Glenn Pearce,

    I think it's probably the man who's the jinx, as he had a previous disaster that didn't include his missus.

    Deepest, darkest Avondale… • Since Jul 2010 • 585 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    I have found the page that you should have looked for on the net Jen and David.

    Why didn't you check that first???? Tut tut tut. (BTW, it took me 30 minutes to find it!!)

    "Sirens will sound for an extended period (IN EXCESS OF 5 MINUTES). Brigade members will patrol with loud speakers to issue instructions. Listen to your RADIO/TV for updates."

    But....I must report that since lunch (now 45 minutes) I have tried to find if there is an official Tsunami siren alert. result......I still do not know. I found the link to Cooks Beach quote above on the Waikato Local Authority website.

    David is right. What IS the difference between fires, Tsunamis and any other siren alert???

    I am emailing (to CD) the pattern of my search around the CD website that I used to try and find it. 64 page documents entitled " Tsunami Advisory and Warning Plan" are not conducive to quick and useful searching while The Wave is approaching.....

    Edit: I did notice the loud wailing sirens and instructions on the Japanese videos. Loud, informative and long!

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1502 posts Report Reply

  • David Haywood,

    Very hard to reply at length via cellphone, but many thanks for all the helpful comments particularly Matthew and Ross. Will attempt to reply at length tonight when lack of sunspots (or whatever) gives me a stronger cellphone signal. Thanks also to Glenn for cheering me up! Cheers, David

    Dunsandel • Since Nov 2006 • 992 posts Report Reply

  • chris,

    Welcome to provincial New Zealand. Hope you get a good rest tonight Sir.

    中国 • Since Jan 2010 • 900 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    This was quick 50 minutes or so. But I have asked to see if it were possible to have a "Standard Tsunami Siren Warning". Since David aluuded to it and my email asked about it. But this reply does not address it.

    From: Adrian Prowse [mailto:Adrian.Prowse@dia.govt.nz]
    Sent: Thursday, 7 April 2011 2:55 p.m.
    To: Ross Mason
    Subject: RE: Tsunami Siren ??????


    Hi Ross

    Thanks for your email and blog link. I'll follow the blog issue up with the Waikato CD staff.

    The responsibility for civil defence at the community level rests with city or district councils. In your case, Hutt Valley Civil Defence is managed by Lower and Upper Hutt City Council.

    Here's the link: http://www.huttcity.govt.nz/Services/Emergency-management/

    Each local authority develops response plans and public alerting systems appropriate for their local hazards. Not every local authority operates tsunami sirens.

    Given the diversity of hazards and response plans in NZ, it is not possible for the national site to list them all.

    Thinking specifically of the tsunami hazard, several local authorities have installed sirens and these are usually tested annually preceding public notification. These tests ensure residents are familiar with the sirens and evacuation procedures. Napier for example have just completed their annual test and corresponding survey. Wellington does not utilise sirens.

    Local authorities develop response initiatives and publicise these in a variety of ways. Hutt Valley civil defence uses community newspapers and other communications channels. As a resident, you need to be aware of you local hazards and what plans are in place. Tsunami is not an immediate risk for Upper Hutt. However it is for parts of Lower Hutt and the website above provides emergency evacuation information for affected residents.

    If you commute to Wellington, you should also be familiar with the Wellington plans for tsunami and earthquake. Here's the link: http://wellington.govt.nz/services/emergencymgmt/index.html

    While local government has a responsibility to keep residents informed (to the best of its ability) ultimately, individuals also have a responsibility to stay informed.

    Adrian Prowse
    Senior Communications Advisor
    Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management
    The Department of Internal Affairs Te Tari Taiwhenua
    Direct Dial: +64 4 495 6833
    Mobile: +64 27 231 3698
    www.civildefence.govt.nz

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1502 posts Report Reply

  • chris,

    several local authorities have installed sirens and these are usually tested annually preceding public notification. These tests ensure residents are familiar with the sirens and evacuation procedures.

    Call me queer or what have you, but to truly help folk (especially those of us with less than incandescent memory glands) familiarize themselves with the drill, wouldn’t it be better to notify the public prior to testing the sirens?

    中国 • Since Jan 2010 • 900 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Andrew,

    We had the same experience a few years ago while camping at Athenree - about 4 in the morning a siren goes off for minutes on end. We had no idea what was going on, or that there was a volunteer fire station a couple of hundred yards from the camp ground. All we knew is that in the quiet of night, the sound of waves on the beach is very loud, but not as loud as a siren.

    Of course this was prior to all the various tsunamis and earthquakes of late, I hate to think how jumpy we would have been in David's place, not only having seen all that on the news, but having lived through it as well.

    Hamiltron - City of the F… • Since Nov 2006 • 842 posts Report Reply

  • David Haywood,

    Thansk everyone for all the kind thoughts and helpful facts and figures. Now that the sun is down I can get sufficient reception to reliably reply using my trusty phone.

    Russell Brown wrote:

    who wants to wait five minutes to find out whether it's a tsunami

    It's not only that -- it's also judging the five minutes.

    In my case, I'd incorporated the siren into my dreams, so I had no idea how long it had been going before I awoke: maybe five minutes already.

    Then we waited for a bit to see whether the siren would stop, went to the lavatory, gathered some blankets for the kids, watched the neighbours hare off in their car... it seemed to me a whole bunch more than five minutes before we left (although I guess it can't have been).

    It's a tough call to make when judging the length of time that a siren has been sounding: 4 minutes 59 seconds and you can roll over and go back to sleep; 5 minutes and 1 second and you should flee for your life.

    The more I think about it, the more I think that this is a profoundly stupid warning system, and that it's all bound to end in tears.

    Dunsandel • Since Nov 2006 • 992 posts Report Reply

  • David Haywood, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    A different tone is impossible with the station sirens as they exist, because they’re mechanical. Big wind-up motors that make a noise as air passes through their baffles (or whatever they’re called). They need three-phase power to drive the motors, they’re so large.

    I figured that this was how they worked -- thanks for the confirmation, Matthew.

    But I may not have explained myself very well: I didn't mean a different tone; I meant a different pattern.

    To put my engineer's hat back on... low cost three-phase motor controllers have been available for a number of years (and in some cases may be already installed on the siren motors), which can alter the pattern of the siren sound. They cost only a few thousand (maybe even less than $2000) for the size of motor that we'd be talking about here.

    The siren last night was a rising pitch followed immediately by a falling pitch (probably just using a simple "flasher" circuit) with about a six second period.

    With a modern controller you could have an alternative siren sound. For example, a rising pitch over five seconds, holding that pitch for ten seconds, and then a falling pitch for two seconds.

    If there was a standard tsunami siren pattern for all New Zealand (so that, for example, people from Christchurch would know what to do when they were visiting Cook's Beach) then it could be extensively advertised on radio, television, in the back of the yellow pages, etc. People would know what it meant whereever they were.

    It seems to me that this would greatly reduce the possibility for confusion (and of people ignoring it).

    Dunsandel • Since Nov 2006 • 992 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    In my case, I'd incorporated the siren into my dreams

    Have you seen my new digital watch, Dude that's a fucking awful noise, etc...

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4371 posts Report Reply

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