Aucklanders will soon be able to receive warnings of natural disasters on their smartphones, after a new public alert system was launched today.
The Auckland Civil Defence has developed a smartphone app which will notify users in advance of impending disasters, such as tsunamis and cyclones, as well as other advisories following major catastophes like earthquakes.
The estimated 500,000 smartphone users living in Auckland will be able to download the app for free.
The app will be synchronised with the Auckland Civil Defence website, so that it is updated in real time with accurate information on vital information in their area, such as road closures, floods, slips, and severe wind warnings.
Auckland councillor Michael Goudie, chair of the Auckland civil defence committee, said the new public alert system is a huge leap forward for the region.
"With so many Aucklanders using smartphone devices, it made sense that any new warning system needed to embrace new technology," he said.
"And with an estimated half the population active on Facebook, we're also encouraging Aucklanders to take responsibility in times of emergency, and let their friends and family know via social media channels what's going on that may impact on them.
"In fact, we have made a start ourselves with social media by allowing people to share their updates and encourage registration for the Auckland Civil Defence iPhone app on Facebook and Twitter.
Auckland Civil Defence controller, Clive Manley, said the authority had learnt many lessons from both the Christchurch earthquakes and the Japanese tsunami.
"Radio and television will continue to play a vital role in disseminating public alerts, but now we have added the hugely significant channel of personalised and immediate alerts to all those Aucklanders with smartphones," he said.
"We strongly encourage Aucklanders to download the new app and become better prepared and informed of what to do in times of disaster."
Nikki Kaye, MP for Auckland Central, welcomed the new public alert system, which comes ahead of the New Zealand ShakeOut earthquake drill on September 26.
"Auckland has experienced recent events such as tornadoes and floods, while other parts of the country have witnessed earthquakes and volcanic eruptions," she said.
"Auckland's new civil defence public alert system will ensure Aucklanders are better prepared in an emergency.
"The launch of this new alert system further underlines the importance of civil defence planning, which is why we urge all New Zealanders to take part in New Zealand ShakeOut next week, the first ShakeOut drill held nationwide in any country in the world."
Those living in the Auckland area can still receive public alerts via mobile phone SMS messages, by texting "all" to 5455, "medium" for only medium and high severity alerts, or "high" for only high severity alerts.