What to do in a tsunami

Find out what you need to do if a tsunami threatens New Zealand.

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With over 14,000 km of coastline in New Zealand, we’re susceptible to the violent flooding and potentially catastrophic property damage, injuries or loss of life caused by a tsunami.

Thanks to getthru.govt.nz, here’s some important information about how to prepare yourself in case of a tsunami and what to do if one hits New Zealand.  

 Tsunami types – and how much warning time we’ll have

  • Distant tsunami:
    generated a long way away. We may have more than three hours warning time before it reaches New Zealand
  • Regional tsunami:
    are generated between one and three hours’ travel time away
  • Local tsunami:
    generated very close to New Zealand, making them very dangerous as we may only have a few minutes’ warning.

Before a tsunami – preparation tips

  • Know where the nearest high ground is and how you’ll reach it. Plan to get as high up or as far inland as you can 
  • If there is a tsunami warning, don’t go down to the beach to get a better view, even if the wave is unlikely to reach where you are 
  • If you live in a coastal area, ask your council about your tsunami risk and local warning arrangements 
  • If you have a disability or special requirements, arrange with your support network to alert you of any warnings and emergency broadcasts 

During a tsunami – evacuation tips

  • Move immediately to the nearest higher ground, or as far inland as you can. If there are evacuation maps where you are, follow the routes shown 
  • Walk or bike if possible and drive only if it’s essential as roads will probably be heavily congested. If you do drive, keep going once you’re well outside the evacuation zone to allow room for others behind you 
  • Take your getaway kit with you if possible, and your pets. But don’t travel into areas at risk to get your kit or belongings 
  • If you can’t escape the tsunami, go to an upper storey of a sturdy building, climb onto a roof or up a tree, or grab a floating object. 

After a tsunami - wait for the official all-clear

  • Listen to the radio or look for online updates from civil defence and don’t return to the evacuation zones until the official all-clear
  • Be aware that there may be more than one wave and it might not be safe for up to 24 hours or longer. The waves that follow the first one may also be bigger 
  • Check yourself for injuries and get first aid if you need it. Help others if you can 
  • When re-entering homes or building, be very careful as floodwaters may have damaged buildings. Look for and report broken power lines to the appropriate authorities 
  • If your property is damaged, take notes and photos for insurance purposes. If you’re renting, contact your landlord and your insurance company as soon as possible.  

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