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Tsunami warning signs

All of New Zealand’s coastline is at risk of tsunami. Knowing the warning signs and the right action to take can help save lives.

Tsunami natural warning signs

For a local source tsunami, which could arrive in minutes, there might not be time for an official warning. It is important to recognise the natural warning signs and act quickly. If you are near the coast and experience any of the following, take action.

  • Feel a strong earthquake that makes it hard to stand up or a weak rolling earthquake that lasts a minute or more
  • See a sudden rise or fall in sea level
  • Hear loud and unusual noises from the sea
  • Receive an official alert

Don’t wait for an official warning

  • Drop, Cover and Hold during the shaking
  • Go immediately to the nearest high ground/safe area or as far inland as you can. Run, walk or cycle if possible. You don’t want to get stuck in traffic in a tsunami zone
  • Take your emergency getaway bag and pets with you if you can
  • Do not go to the shore and watch
  • Listen to the radio and follow the instructions of Civil Defence/emergency services
  • Do not return until an official all-clear message is given by Civil Defence.

What about alerting systems?

When tsunami travel across the ocean from far away, we have more time to warn people what to do. The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) is responsible for issuing tsunami warnings in New Zealand.

Civil Defence use multiple channels to send warnings and alerts before, during and after emergencies to make sure as many people as possible receive the information they need:

For more information on these alerting systems, see the Bay of Plenty CDEM Website.

Why is there no time for official warnings? (481kb pdf)


Last Reviewed: 04/02/2020

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