Six out of ten New Zealanders received a text during a Civil Defence emergency alert test carried out in November, just ten percent short of critical mass.
Minister of Civil Defence Hon Kris Faafoi made the announcement on Friday, January 4, saying 60 percent received the test alert, with the reach rising to seven out of ten people (69 percent) receiving the alert when it includes those who didn’t receive the alert but were near somebody who did. In 2017, the test reached 34 percent.
Faafoi said, “We know from international experience that once you hit about 70 percent penetration, a critical mass is achieved in which you generate word of mouth that quickly spreads to just about everyone. We expected it to take about three years to reach that figure, so I am pleased we’re on track to exceed that because it is another step to keeping people safe.”
Chris Hawker, the Director of Emergency Management Otago, said EMO carried out an informal survey among 364 of its community contacts, which gave even higher results (75 percent overall and 80 percent for Upper Clutha).
“But it’s not statistically valid due to the small size of the sample and also the targeted selection method. We are comfortable that the national result of 60 percent will be valid for Otago, including the Upper Clutha,” Hawker added.
“We also found a wide range of phone makes and models received the alerts, including a variety of models of Samsung, iPhone, Motorola, Huawei and Huawei Lite.”
The Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management is working with manufacturers and vendors to address some of the issues with how different handsets behave.
“Emergency Management Otago (EMO) is very pleased to have the emergency mobile alert system available as another means of warning our communities about sudden onset emergencies. Our staff have been trained to use the alerting system where there is a direct and immediate threat, anywhere in Otago,” Hawker said.
“We know that not everyone can receive these alerts – it is one of several ways that we can get information to people during emergencies, and we will use all of them.”
Other channels, including radio, social media and news media, will also be used to reach as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.
“It’s also very important that people share warnings with family and those around them, to spread the word quickly,” Hawker said.
He encouraged every family to make their own emergency plans, so that when the unexpected happens everyone knows what to do.