Vinnell, L.J., Hudson-Doyle, E.E., Inch, P., Tan, M.L., Becker, J.S. & Johnston, D.M. 2022. Evacuation behavior and information needs of Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand residents following the 5 March 2021 MW 7.3 East Cape earthquake. Seismological Research Letters. Seismological Research Letters 93(3). doi: 10.1785/0220210286
At 2.27 a.m., on 5 March 2021, an Mw 7.3 earthquake occurred approximately 100 km off the East Cape of the North Island of Aotearoa New Zealand. This earthquake was felt across the entire country, including in the capital city of Wellington and the surrounding region. Previous work reports varied levels of tsunami evacuation behavior for natural warnings from earthquake shaking. To further explore this behavior, we surveyed residents of the Wellington region about their evacuation decisions following the 5 March East Cape earthquake, their motivations for evacuating or not evacuating, and their immediate information needs. Approximately one‐third of those who felt the earthquake, and who were in a tsunami hazard zone, self‐evacuated, similar to previous findings following a larger, closer earthquake in 2016. Reasons for evacuating immediately were evenly split over specific awareness of the National Emergency Management Agency’s “Long or strong, get gone” tsunami evacuation advice, general knowledge that earthquakes can trigger tsunami, and social influences. Among those who did not evacuate, common reasons included not receiving an official warning and not believing that the earthquake was strong enough to generate a tsunami. Most people sought information from GeoNet, an official provider of earthquake information, though civil defense and emergency management sources were less used than mainstream news and social media. Along with information about tsunami risk, people tended to seek or want general information about earthquake characteristics such as location and size. Overall, the findings suggest that current public education efforts to encourage people to recognize and act on natural warnings (i.e., earthquake shaking) rather than waiting for official advice should be continued, and that consideration should be given to encouraging the use of official information sources.