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Is Tsunado part of a solution to protect NZers from tsunami? The former CD boss thinks so

The Government is admitting their tsunami system failed last week – and now Newshub has revealed the Government has been sitting on a solution for years.

The product is called Tsunado and has even received support from former Civil Defence boss, John Hamilton. Tsunado has also reached out to this year to see how we can both worth together for the good of the public.

Over the weekend Newshub political show The Nation grilled Minister Gerry Brownlee on why Civil Defence had shelved plans to use this system. hopes to have more details on Tsunado in 2017 as we continue our talks with them in the interests to find better warning services for all New Zealanders.



Gary Benner on 21/11/2016 11:02am

Good point raised, as the US System run by NOAA uses similar radio technology to TSUNADO, so in some ways it is an expansion of the US system. However the US System uses dedicated radio frequencies (expensive) whereas TSUNADO uses existing FM stations and Satellite, saving huge amounts of equipment and operational costs.

Also TSUNADO Alert Radios are battery operated (as recommended already by NZ Civil Defence – so you can take them on the run), have an in built siren as loud as a smoke alarm (unlike the US Radios) and have military grade security (again unlike US systems which have been known to get hacked causing intense embarrassment), can be used to activate street level sirens and other public space alarms, with the audio of the radio, so people get informed in those places – eg malls, town centres, beaches, etc. A big criticism is that street level sirens do not inform people, causing huge confusion. Speakers attached to adapted TSUNADO Alert Radios can broadcast the message easily, and cost effectively.

Essentially over a twelve year period we researched all the systems around the world, and filled the gaps in their weaknesses with our design, and added some extra bits of our own, utilising wherever possible existing communications infrastructures to save costs. As a result we have estimated running TSUNADO in NZ ( along with a Mobile App support to provide alerts to mobile when the cellular system is working) at less than one million dollars every year. This is ridiculously cheap when compared to the anticipated costs of the cell broadcasting option being touted by MCDEM ($50M++).

All of this information has been with MCDEM now for over 2-3 years, and we are calling for publication of their technical advice as to why cell broadcasting was a preferred option over TSUNADO. We suspect there is none, but if there is, it should be made public. We have never been advised of any such process, or outcome.

Better still, there should be an independent technical review of their decisions to date.

cantykiwi on 21/11/2016 5:38pm

This is the first bit of common sense I’ve read. If going for individual alerts.

1/ As one who uses only a basic mobile phone (and not alone in doing so) I much prefer the system above and was very concerned on learning smartphones were being favoured.

2/ I don’t (and never will) sign up to social media, by phone or computer. Nor do I want my ‘phone accessing the internet (though would relax that in an emergency, but not sign up to any website). Again, not alone on that. Which rules out a lot of the info these days. i.e. there continues to be a need for MULTIPLE ways to get emergency info out.

3/ Running across existing radio band, it perhaps could alternatively be accessible on mobile phones that have radio? Also, one needs a battery operated radio to hand for other info. Tho’ how many would cart it around separately from their phone could be an issue, but that’s a personal choice, as pt 2 above.

4/ With Gary Brenner’s adaptation, people have the choice to carry it or not.

5/ The counter-point is the very sound advice that perhaps, at an individual level, the safest remains the mantra “if it’s long and strong you should be gone”. Unless the sirens are instigated by e.g. USGS and even then they could be too late. (As we saw in Japan, some waves come in very fast.) NOT a criticism of GeoNet or Civil Defence etc, just a simple fact of life that locally such things take a while to suss for all the reasons already explained elsewhere and seconds can matter.

6/ Plus one does have to have the device (tsunado/radio or mobile) to hand and not be running out of battery! e.g. I’m rarely without my mobile in my pocket but did find myself some 30 km from home recently before realising I’d left it on the charger.

7/ Screaming on mobiles, over-riding any call or text being made, is of limited good sense: a call could be critical, it could be a parent connecting with a child in the seconds after a major quake; or someone calling for emergency services in a life-critical situation. No, to forcibly interrupt calls is not wise and removes individual choice of prioritising emergencies when they occur simultaneously. Unless of course the siren can be reliably turned off.

8/ Lastly of course, if the financials are accurate, it’s a “no-brainer” on cost if an individual alert is warranted. Either way I expect the costs will be charged to the individual, either for the FM-tsunado or via the mobile provider.

Pt 3 above: I’m not convinced individual alerts are the way to go. Risk of homes being burgled is going to make some waiver indecisively, whether the alert’s official or via the long-and-strong quaking. There’s no such thing as 100% risk proof and sometimes to try too hard, removing the onus on the individual, leaves people too reliant on others, reducing the ability to decide.

Gary Benner on 21/11/2016 8:19pm

There is no one system that can do it all, and this is something that used to be the policy held by MCDEM. Sadly they have reversed that in recent times. For the scenario of an earthquake close to landfall, where any potential tsunami arrives quickly, then you may most likely feel the earthquake as it will be severe to cause the tsunami. And the policy to take that as your alert is obvious. However there are still quakes that can cause a dangerous tsunami that may not be felt enough to wake you. Sirens in public spaces such as beaches, malls, and town centres are valuable, as one cannot expect people to carry their TSUNADO radio with them day to day. Text messages are valuable then too, but again not everyone carries their cellphone all the time, or regards texts as an immediate call to action, especially when driving. In that regard, the cell broadcasting text option is by far the most expensive way to effect messaging, and our TSUNADO Mobile App is just as effective and way, way cheaper.

cantykiwi on 22/11/2016 4:37pm

Thanks Gary, I’d not appreciated the policy change from “no one system can do it all”.
Good point re tsunami generated by less strong shaking – or indeed, some other cause, as GeoNet recently reminded can be the case.
No question that a multi-approach is best. (Apologies for my lengthy ramble earlier, got a bit carried away.)

Axel on 21/11/2016 7:15am

The USA have had a public warning system for a good number of years. Why look for something new? – lets expand on the system that they have. I have seen it in action – it broadcasts on all TV channels – all radio stations and they also have the ability to put messages on the information signs that we currently have already.

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