Organisational responses to warnings of impending hazards : what can be learned from the September 2009 and February 2010 warnings in New Zealand? : a thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy in Emergency Management, 130.899, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand

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The purpose of this study was to investigate organisational response to two tsunami warnings issued for New Zealand in September 2009 and February 2010 following off-shore earthquakes: Samoa and Chile respectfully. Communication was at the forefront of the investigation with the aim to discover how communication could potentially affect response, coordination and planning. Four methods were applied using semi-structured questionnaires to obtain qualitative and quantitative information, literature reviews and reviews of technical and debriefing reports. Seventy nine organisations were approached to participate. Twenty five questionnaires were sent out to six organisations in various regions for staff to complete with 18 returned. Interviews were organised and were conducted, with 5 completed. One debriefing report provided relevant information and was treated as an interview. The results of the study indicated the majority of respondents (71%) considered their organisational response to the tsunami warnings in 2009 were effective (53%) and very effective (18%). The majority did encounter problems during the September 2009 tsunami warning with 29% indicating a less than effective response. In 2010, improvements were seen with 44% indicating the response was effective and 38% thought is was very effective and 19% indicating it was less than effective. Interagency communication was very effective for 14% in 2009; slightly increasing to 19% in 2010. In 2009 it was effective for 29%; increasing to 56% in 2010. Interagency communication was somewhat ineffective for 43% in 2009 reducing to 19% in 2010. Terminology was one issue raised by all respondents as this did cause confusion amongst response agencies. Intra-agency communication was believed to be very effective (12%) and effective (41%) in 2009; improving in 2010 (31% and 50% respectively). Some (41%) who did believed intra-agency communication was somewhat ineffective in 2009; reducing to 13% in 2010. Some indicated it was ineffective in 2009 (6%) and 2010 (6%). Planning issues were identified in 2009 by 71% of respondents and in 2010 this reduced to 64%. Others indicated no issues (28%) with planning in 2009. In 2010, 36% indicated no planning issues. The roles and responsibilities of the EOC and primary emergency services communication centres indicated more planning and transparency was required. Coordinated incident management was required with 81% indicating it was fully utilised and 19% did not fully utilise or use coordinated incident management (CIMS) in 2009. There was little change in 2010 with only 80% fully utilising CIMS and 20% either not utilising it fully or not using it at all. In 2009, 72% believed the warning to be a good reminder of New Zealand’s vulnerability to natural disasters; dropping to 53% in 2010. In 2009, 39% believed it to be a good training exercise; increasing to 47% in 2010. Interviewees indicated lateral and vertical communication pathways were not always implemented. Coordination was not always functional. The results also revealed that the warnings sufficed as a good training exercise due to the urgency and requirement to respond. This allowed organisations to test their procedures and identify gaps in knowledge and plans. The principle conclusion was that communication can affect response, coordination and planning. Communication has to work in its entirety. When gaps appear in communication pathways, this has an effect on planning, response and coordination. All response organisations need to re-evaluate the current CIMS structure, training, terminology used, and communication pathways to improve response.
Tsunamis, Safety measures, Emergency management, New Zealand, Tsunami warnings, Disaster preparedness