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Tsunami Evacuation

When to evacuate | Where to evacuate | How to evacuate

Do I know where to go to be safe from a tsunami?

When to evacuate: The best tsunami warning is an earthquake

A major earthquake is the most reliable way to know that a devastating tsunami might be on the way from a local source (like the Kermadec Trench).

This is confirmed by the Ministry of Civil Defence Emergency Management and GNS Science.

Formal warning systems will not be able to be activated in time to help you survive such a tsunami, which may arrive 50 minutes after the quake. 

Tsunami warning signs:

  • A big earthquake that knocks you off your feet or is very difficult to stand up in.
  • Any earthquake that lasts more than a minute. 
  • Strange ocean behaviour (loud or strange noises, sudden change in sea level, ocean drawing away from the shore).

If any of these things happen, don’t wait for an official warning. Grab your emergency pack and walk as quickly as you are able to a safe location or to high ground. 

What about alert systems and sirens?

Alert systems are the topic of earnest, ongoing conversation – but a big earthquake is the best warning for the tsunami we are most concerned about. The most important thing is to be aware of the natural warning signs so that you can make your own decision to evacuate if there is an earthquake.

Warning systems are useful for tsunami that come would from regional or distance sources (greater than 2 hours away). Civil Defence has a suite of warning systems. Subscribe to emergency alerts at

Where to evacuate: Inland or high ground

Use the tsunami evacuation maps to plan your route – they could save your life

We have gathered the best possible scientific information to show where tsunami flooding is predicted to go and how fast it will get there and how deep it will be. The maps reflect what we know as at November 2014. They will be updated when new information is available.

How to evacuate: Use your feet. Help your neighbours.

It’s natural to think you’ll be able to leap into the car and get away before everyone else. But what if everyone else is thinking the same thing?

Consider this: if everyone tries to drive out of Papamoa at the same time, traffic modelling undertaken by NZTA show that it will take at least 6 hours to get everyone clear. That’s on a good day with no emergency.

The best plan is to walk. Learnings from the Japan tsunami of 2011 confirm this fact.

The evacuation maps we have provided show safe locations and zones that can be reached by foot from every part of the coast within 40 minutes. The distances are modelled on a very conservative walking pace.

Plan with your neighbours
With less than an hour after a major earthquake before a tsunami arrives, emergency services will not be able to get you out in time. The reality is that you’re on your own.

The community’s best chance to survive a tsunami is to work together as a community. Make an evacuation plan with your neighbours, especially if you know they will need assistance getting to a safe area.

Take your emergency pack
A tsunami is a large volume of water that surges across the ocean, usually caused by an underwater earthquake. It is like ripples in a pond but on a much larger scale. Tsunami can arrive in several waves over a long period of time. The first wave is not always the biggest. That is why you need your emergency pack. You must be prepared to wait for many hours before the water subsides.

Last Reviewed: 12/12/2016