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EMCI to test emergency sirens

Thursday 8 June 2023 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Local, National


EMCI to test emergency sirens
Emergency Management Cook Islands director John Strickland. MELINA ETCHES/23060712

Don’t be alarmed when you hear the emergency sirens located around Rarotonga wailing tomorrow (Friday) at noon. Emergency Management Cook Islands (EMCI) will be testing the sirens to identify which alarms are functioning and those that will need repair work.

EMCI director John Strickland says the test is to ascertain which sirens are working and those needing maintenance.

It is also an opportunity to train the Puna members to activate these sirens manually, if needed, Strickland said.

“These sirens are used for and will be activated in preparedness for a tsunami or any emergency evacuation scenario,” Strickland said.

“Cyclone season starts in November and we want to make sure the sirens are in good working order.”

On Friday, the sirens will be activated electronically from the EMCI Office in Tutakimoa.

A representative from each respective Puna will be at each of the siren’s locations around the island, and in the event of a siren not working from the electronic control, the siren will have to be turned on manually.

Rarotonga electrician Charles Koronui has been engaged with EMCI for many years and conducts the inspections of the sirens. Koronui will also be involved in the trials and on hand to check the equipment.

Strickland says the sirens are in place to help warn people, and are activated when/if a tsunami is on its way. When the siren is switched on this means people need to immediately move and head to higher ground. The sirens will also be switched on when any other hazard/disaster may take place.

“For our cyclones we know that we have time to prepare and notices will go out to our people,” said Strickland, who also cautioned people on social media to refrain from posting their own disaster awareness posts.

“In the future, when people do hear a siren, it means something is up and we will distribute notices across the media platforms and blast text messages and for the Pa Enua too.”

The sirens have not been tested since 2018, said Strickland, adding like everything else funding is key for the maintenance of the sirens to ensure the equipment is operational.

He also says people need to be vigilant and maintain their evacuation procedures and programmes, praising Arorangi School who practice their evacuation measures regularly with their students.

The Cook Islands is one of the leading countries in emergency management in the Pacific, says Strickland, adding “we are sharing information, which is also followed by our traditional knowledge which we need to maintain from our tupuna”.

“Our people and those in the Pa Enua also use traditional knowledge, it is a gift for us in the Pacific Islands.”

Emergency Management Cook Islands has also looked at the warning systems in the Pa Enua with officials recently visiting Atiu and Mauke where the alarm systems are still operational. They will visit the island of Mangaia later this month.

“We are looking at ways of how to improve the warning system in the Pa Enua,” Strickland said.

“We need to improve in this area because if you look at climate change and all the things we have experienced like the king-sized waves last July which was very unusual for us and our tropical depression reports brought to our notice, it’s not the same like 10 years ago.

“For us, we need to be prepared for the unexpected.”

The emergency sirens around Rarotonga are located at: Meteorological services – Nikao, Infrastructure Cook Islands – Tokerau Arorangi, T&M Heather  – Akaoa/Inave Arorangi, Vodafone – Akaoa Arorangi, YWAM – Vaimaanga Titikaveka, Kent Hall – Titikaveka, Muri Meeting House – Ngatangiia, Te Uki Ou school – Turangi Ngatangiia, Matavera Packing Shed – Matavera, Super Brown Store - Tupapa, Tupapa Meeting House – Tupapa, Airport Tower, Avarua Harbour, Police Station, Manual Switch - EMCI Office - Tutakimoa.

The sirens located at: Super Brown, Apii Te Uki Ou and Infrastructure Cook Islands have been removed and will be replaced, and another will be reset at the Enua Manea Hall in Titikaveka.