Horizons take part in national exercise

Horizons Regional Council is taking part in Exercise Tangaroa this week, a national exercise which will test New Zealand’s arrangements in preparedness for, responding to and recovering from a major tsunami event. 

Emergency management manager Ian Lowe says Horizons will activate its Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC) for the exercise to simulate supporting city and district councils during an emergency.  

“Our ECC kicks in when more than one city/district council has activated their Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) due to an emergency event in their area as part of our Civil Defence Emergency Management Group responsibilities,” says Mr Lowe.

“The purpose of the Horizons ECC is to coordinate the wider response across the Region and support each EOC. This includes managing and allocating resources to districts on a priority of needs basis while coordinating and updating at a national level.

“While we don’t know exactly how this tsunami scenario is going to impact our Region, with so much coastline in our territory it is highly likely to affect more than one territorial authority.

“It is likely a state of local emergency may be declared for the Region, and dependant on the wider impacts across New Zealand, could result in a national state of emergency declaration which means we can practice our role in that situation as well.”

Mr Lowe says the exercise provides a great opportunity to test Tsunami Response Plans across the Region.
“It’s important that these plans are tested and adapted as required so that when a large-scale event actually happens, such as the flood event of June 2015, our emergency response is the best it can be.”

In addition to testing our response plans, the exercise will feed into a tsunami public education campaign currently getting underway.

“The Manawatu-Wanganui Civil Defence Group received $70,000 from the Ministry of Civil Defence last year for the campaign which has seen warning, evacuation and safe zone signage, posters and brochures created and which will be disseminated amongst all territorial authorities,” says Mr Lowe.

“Local authorities are currently holding public meetings with potentially affected communities to reinforce preparedness during peace time. The tsunami signage will also be going up soon.”

The exercise kicks off on 31 August, and will focus on preparations during the period between when an alert is received and the first waves hit. On 14 September the focus will shift to the response after the tsunami has hit, then on 28 September, management of the longer-term recovery will be tested.

The regional response includes coordination of public information communications and welfare across the Region. Other agencies involved include territorial authorities, emergency services such as Fire and Police, the New Zealand Defence Force and the District Health Board.