How people responded to the April 2007 tsunami warning in Cairns and Townsville

David King

Peer-reviewed Article



Archived Article


Following the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004 there was heightened international awareness of this hazard and strategies were developed to improve tsunami warning systems worldwide. Australian emergency management and scientific agencies such as EMA, Geoscience Australia, the Bureau of Meteorology and state emergency management departments released warning and behaviour information through websites, and the development of warning systems has been ongoing. Despite the enormity of the tsunami, research on tsunami awareness has been limited. The tsunami warning that took place on 2nd April 2007 was a rare opportunity to record how people responded. Surveys carried out by the Centre for Disaster Studies showed that most (76%) people heard the warning while it was current during the morning of 2nd April, primarily before 0930, but that most people sought no extra information (70%) and took no action (53%). Townsville was significantly more laid back than Cairns, but only 35 per cent considered future tsunami warnings to be unlikely or are not bothered about them. People called for more information and advice. There were strong levels of concern about the warning, future warnings and knowledge of correct actions. However, significant proportions of residents did not know whether or not they lived in a storm surge zone.