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Civil Defence & Emergency Management
~ Ngā Whakahaere Whawhati Tata

civil defence

Testing the Civil Defence Sirens

Napier's sirens were activated for the first time in five years on September 27, 2009. The midday alert was their first test since they were systematically restored.

In a recent Napier City Council survey, 65% of respondents said they wanted the sirens tested twice a year. As a result of that, the Council will sound the warning system at every daylight saving change.

Napier City Council Civil Defence teamed up with the New Zealand Fire Service to test the city's 16 sirens on daylight saving weekend - which is when people are urged to check their smoke alarm batteries, emergency survival kits and water, and of course change their clocks.

The sirens sound (turn on and off) for approximately five minutes. On hearing the warning, the public are urged to tune their radios into a Hawke's Bay radio station (Classic Hits 89.5FM, 92.7 More FM, Newstalk ZB 1278AM or Radio Live 1368AM) and listen for the Civil Defence broadcast message read out by the announcer.

There are no assurances that everyone will hear the sirens. Various factors, such as other loud noises, wind direction, distance from the siren location, elevation and topography, may affect the effectiveness of the siren noise.

Improvements to the system are underway, but they won't guarantee everyone can hear the alert. It's possible some residents in Esk Valley, Poraiti, Taradale and Meeanee may not hear the warning.

The only way to be sure you can hear the siren is for Napier City Council to regularly activate and test the system.

Civil Defence doesn't want to alarm or frighten residents when it carries out tests and asks the public to help by informing neighbours. Of most concern are residents located within 250 metres of a siren location. The noise generated is loud and people with sensitive hearing should avoid direct and long exposure.

Napier City Council has funded this project to build public awareness of the warning system. It aims to inform residents about what they should do when the siren sounds and underscore the importance of checking emergency boxes and water supplies and replacing old smoke alarm batteries. The alerts will also help determine existing coverage of the city.

The New Zealand Fire Service recommends installing smoke alarms to provide an early warning of fire danger. It's vital, the service says, that people ensure smoke alarms have working batteries by testing their alarms at daylight saving.

Smoke alarms have saved thousands of lives in New Zealand. If there is a fire in your home, smoke alarms could be the difference between life and death for your family.

Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, living area and hallway. Test smoke alarms regularly. Day light saving is an excellent time to test and replace batteries.

In the days following the siren test, residents are asked to complete a survey on its effectiveness. This can be done by going onto the Napier City Council website or by filling out the survey form published in local newspapers.

Educational Institutes

Early childhood centres, schools and other educators are asked to play a vital role in teaching their students about the alert system and what they should do in an emergency.


Local businesses may wish to test their own plans with staff.

Rest Homes and Care Accommodation Providers

Staff can help ensure residents don't become alarmed or frightened when the warning system is tested by informing residents and telling them what to expect. The noise generated by the sirens will be loud - help people with sensitive hearing to avoid direct prolonged exposure.

The Facts

The Napier sirens are not just for tsunami warnings - they are for any threat that the public needs to be know about.

  • If we activated the sirens every time there was a tsunami warning/watch, they would sound at least 20 times a year. That would be seen as "crying wolf". If you heard the sirens sounding frequently, would you know when it take the warning seriously? Would you know whether you should take action?
  • When the sirens are activated, you know it's for real. They will be triggered by an event that will affect us all. Listen to the radio for advice and instructions on what to do. When the siren sounds you need to take action.
  • The media receive the tsunami warnings/watches at the same time as the Ministry of Civil Defence and broadcast them immediately. They don't wait to confirm that there has been a tsunami generated. The media cannot interpret the Tsunami Warning Centre information - this is the job of scientific experts who advise your local Civil Defence offices.
  • Some residents were upset that they didn't hear the sirens during the test. This was the point of the exercise - we need to know what areas are not covered so we can do something about it.

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