Wednesday, July 28, 2010

WEMO using Twitter for emergency alerts

So our cousins down the road at WEMO are using Twitter as an emergency text alert system (see the media release below). I think it's a great idea, but I have a few queries before I set Porirua on the same path.

We currently have Readynet in place for businesses, schools, care facilities, community groups, etc. in Porirua. While primarily a planning tool allowing you to formulate an emergency plan for your site/group that can be shared with the 111 call centres and the Emergency Management Office, it has an email and text alert function too, but Readynet is not set up to cater for individuals, unless they are part of a wider group like Neighbourhood Support. (For more info on Readynet go to

I currently use Twitter as a way of pointing people in the direction of this blog - it automatically tweets with a link to the new post whenever I do something here. It would be pretty easy to switch off the auto-forward, and use Twitter solely for emergency updates. But... what counts as an emergency?

What threshhold would we set? What is it you'd like to be alerted to with a text message at potentially odd hours?

Things like Grays Rd closing due to flooding? Slips on Paekakarki Hill Rd or other roads in the area? Severe Weather warnings? Gas leaks? Major traffic accidents? Flooding like we had at the end of May? Or super big things, like tsunami warnings?

I can imagine that it would have been quite useful during the Whitireia Park fire as a way of letting subscibers from the area know where to evacuate to, and which streets could return home at what time, but if you didn't live in that area it might have been annoying to get a text at midnight about something that didn't affect you in the slightest.

What are your thoughts? Post them in the comments here or on the Facebook page as I'm quite keen to find out, and don't forget to sign up to WEMO's alerts if you live or work in Wellington, or just want to be nosey.

From the Wellington City Council media release - 27 July 2010

Sign up to emergency alerts on your mobile

The Wellington Emergency Management Office (WEMO) has a new text alert system which can help warn people about a major emergency like an approaching tsunami.

The Twitter-based service is free, however signing up will cost four texts at the standard rate.

Wellington City Council’s Emergency Preparedness Manager, Fred Mecoy, says signing up to receive the alerts is easy to do and it could ultimately save lives.

“The ability to deliver timely warnings and alerts through mobile phones will help ensure Wellingtonians have the information they need to protect themselves and their families prior to disasters and emergencies.

“We will send three to four test messages a year to ensure the service is working and any other message will be a genuine alert."

Fred says if you already have a Twitter account, signing up for WEMO text alerts is easy.

“Just follow @wemonz and allow tweets from WEMO to be sent to your mobile. If you are not a Twitterer all you have to do is text the word ‘start’ to 8987, wait for a reply and then text ‘signup’, text a unique username, then text ‘follow WemoNZ’.”

Fred is also encouraging users to then forward the alert on to their networks.

“The use of social networking media such as Twitter means emergency notification will be able to ‘go viral’.

“However we also realise the fragility of the cellphone network and, in particular, the possibility that it may become overloaded, which is why the emergency text alert system will be just one tool of many that WEMO will use to raise the alarm.”

For more information on text alerts, phone 460 0650, email or visit

Sign up for text alerts – it’s easy!*

(If you already receive ‘Tweets’ to your mobile phone, go to step 5)

1. Text the word ‘start’ to 8987 (wait for a reply after each text sent)

2. Reply with the word ‘signup’

3. Think of a unique username. (You won’t need to remember it again, so you could use your name followed by some random characters, eg ‘Kelly495hgim’)

4. Reply with your chosen username (if you are already on Twitter, use your existing username, and it will ask you for your password)

5. Send/reply the words ‘follow wemonz’ to 8987.

*Please note it does not currently work on the 2 Degrees network.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Drive safely!

Looking at the weather radar, there's a big patch of quite heavy downpour kind of rain heading our way, just in time for the commute home.

Please take extra care on the roads, adjust your speed and following distances for the conditions, get your wipers going full speed, and make sure your headlights are on. Expect other drivers to do unexpected things, but make sure you are nice and predictable, and use your indicators early. I'm not exactly sure what happens to people's brains when they go driving in the rain, but my observations tell me it's not good!

We don't want to give the fire, police & ambulance services any more work than they need - especially in the rain - that would just be terribly inconsiderate! So for their sakes, and yours, drive safely.

And if you encounter problems with surface flooding or blocked drains, or slips closing roads and such like, contact the council (24hr ph 04-237-5089). We can't fix it, if we don't know about it!

EDIT: And it all passed by off our coast, making me look like a wally...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Soggy Friday

It rained a bit on Friday, but I hadn't thought it was all that bad - obviously Porirua escaped the worst of it. Parts of Wellington didn't and the Wairarapa most certainly did not, with roads closed and communities isolated. A number of slips on the Johnsonville line stopped trains until the afternoon, there were slips on the Coast Road in Wainuiomata, Days Bay in Eastbourne, one in Kilbirnie that threatened houses, soime in Wadestown, another on Takapu Rd near Tawa (I just about drove into that one late at night, it hadn't been there when I went up the road - good thing I was driving to the conditions!).

In Wairarapa, the Huangarua and Ruamahanga Rivers burst their banks, the Ponatahi Bridge near Martinborough was under a foot of water overnight, and the communities of Tora and White Rock were cut off.

But as far as I'm aware, Porirua was a bit soggy, but otherwise unscathed?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Now that's a bit icky

So University of Otago did some research in Wellington during the peak of last year's swine flu season, and the results are really rather disturbing.

They watched thousands of people at Wellington Railway Station, a food court somewhere in town, and down at Wellington Hospital, observing to see what hygiene precautions people were taking - whether they were covering their mouths & noses with a tissue or using the crook of their elbow when sneezing and coughing - just like the Ministry of Health had been spending a large chunk of money ($1.75 million) promoting.

And the results, which illustrate just why there are so many sick days taken each year, was that only 1 in 20 (5%) did as they should. 1 in 4 (25%) didn't cover anything at all, just filled the air around them with an explosion of bodily fluids & germs, and the rest just sprayed their hands with mucus, to contaminate the next thing they touched. Lovely...

Some were spotted coughing all over food, or in their children's faces, and some were seen actively spitting - in the hospital of all places!

Makes you want to bathe in Dettol, just thinking about it, doesn't it?

Cover your coughs & sneezes, we don't want your diseases!

It's good to hear that 1 million Kiwis have gotten their flu jabs this year, though with the way people carry on, no one is going to be safe from whatever other cold viruses happen to be doing the rounds. I'm just praying that people are actually washing their hands after using the bathroom...

Friday, July 9, 2010

Power cut in Porirua

From Stuff:

Power was cut to around 4500 homes in the Mana area, north of Wellington last
night. Power went out about 8.30pm in Paremata, Titahi Bay and Mana,
Plimmerton. The fault was traced to a substation in Mana, a Wellington
Electricity spokesman said. Power was restored to all homes by 9.10pm, after
the electricity supply was re-routed by technicians. The cause of the power cut
was still being investigated tonight. A 9:05pm train between Paraparaumu and
Wellington was replaced by buses due to the power cut.

Hopefully everyone had had their dinner by then? If not, I hope you were prepared and had another method of cooking available to you, like a gas cooker. It's not just the big disasters where you need to make use of your survival items.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Will the rain ever end?

So we had a call from our friendly flood protection officer from the regional council. MetService has issued a Severe Weather Warning for heavy rain in the Tararua Ranges and Wairarapa, but we're expecting some of that to spill over into our catchment area too, so the streams in the areas of Grays Road, and Pauatahanui/Judgeford area may rise a fair bit.

If you come across flooding or slips on any of the roads in the area, and warning signs or road cones aren't set up yet, please don't hesitate to contact Porirua City Council and let us know - we can't fix things if we don't know what's happened! The number is 237-5089 and it's a 24-hr number.

We've also got a Severe Weather Watch for gales, so it may get windy tomorrow.

Fun fun...

This all the same weather system that dumped on Gisborne -

EDIT: Friday 9/7/10 - The strong southerly winds are expected to continue during Friday, easing later in the day.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

East Coast flooding

The East Coast is taking a bit of a battering at the moment, with heavy rain flooding rivers in the Gisborne area, and closing roads with floodwaters & slips.