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Hohepa residents are Civil Defence stars

Near 100 residents and staff at Hohepa in Clive put their evacuation practices into action when a “long and strong” earthquake was felt, and this week received a pat on the back, an award and a morning tea for their sterling efforts.

Resident Paul Stalker was awake and already dressed when the earthquake struck at 6am on September 2. When the call came from the wake-over staff to evacuate he was prepared. “It went great; we were ready.”

Margaret Douglas, also a resident, agreed that the evacuation went smoothly. She lives in Harris House which is home to seven older retired residents, some in wheelchairs. “It went exactly like we practiced.”

It is important that if a “long and strong” earthquake is felt that people do not wait for a warning to get out, said Hastings District Council emergency management officer Alan Daly. The risk is that an earthquake close to the coast will trigger a sudden tsunami and there will be no time to warn people before the wave hits. “If an earthquake is ‘long and strong; be gone’. The Hohepa reaction was our perfect scenario,” he said.

Andy White, general manager of Hohepa Hawke’s Bay which provides homes, education and work opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities, said the logistics of evacuating near 100 residents and staff from the Clive site could not be underestimated and regular practices are held.

Mr Daly and emergency management team leader Trevor Mitchell delivered the morning tea on Tuesday. Mr Daly presented the award and congratulated the staff and residents, telling them that their evacuation was just what the emergency services recommended during such an event.

Mr White said he was very proud of the team, both staff and residents, for evacuating so quickly and seamlessly. “Some people in Napier stayed in their beds but I’m pleased to say you people were into our vans and ready to go; some in your pyjamas. You took notice, and that made the job of making sure everyone was safe that much easier.”

Once evacuated, staff advised Civil Defence staff that the facility was empty, so “they knew they didn’t have to worry about us”, Mr White said.

The presentation came in the lead up to World Tsunami Awareness Day on November 5.

Mr Daly said it was the perfect time to think about what families should do if a tsunami is coming. People need to know that there may not always need be a warning. Earthquakes close to the East Coast could trigger a tsunami that will arrive on land before an alarm is sounded.

“It is imperative that people near the coast move inland or uphill as quickly as possible if they feel a strong earthquake that makes standing up difficult or a rolling earthquake that lasts longer than a minute; a sudden rise or fall in sea level; or loud or unusual noises from the sea.”

Door to door tsunami advice

To help get that message out, Civil Defence personnel have been knocking on doors in Hawke’s Bay’s seaside communities, handing out printed information and talking residents through the steps they need to take in an emergency.

In October they targeted Waimarama and Ocean Beach. “A tsunami generated just offshore and arriving in minutes poses the greatest immediate threat for these communities. It is important that people know and understand the natural warning signs and make their own decision to immediately go to high ground,” said Mr Mitchell.

4 October 2017

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