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Modelling Tsunami Evacuation Behaviour

Project period: 2022 - 2024

Organisations: GNS Science, Massey University, University of Canterbury, East Coast LAB

Project location: Tairāwhiti/Gisborne, Te Matau-a-Māui/Hawke's Bay, Ōtautahi/Christchurch


tsunma hikoiThe project seeks to understand tsunami evacuation behaviour in Aotearoa New Zealand by combining  computational modelling techniques and understanding local contexts and knowledge. We will develop tools to model large-scale tsunami evacuation behaviour, and subsequently provide information that will be helpful for mass evacuation planning.

The team will use agent-based modelling to simulate movements of individuals and use statistical methods to model people’s decision-making processes. With these tools, the team will be able to simulate evacuation scenarios at large scales. To ensure that the modelling represents the actual environment and people as realistically as possible, they will improve the model by incorporating data informed by citizens. Citizen-contributed data gathering will include questionnaires on behaviour from past events, and tracking participants performing evacuation drills using GPS-enabled devices. 

The team will work together alongside Māori partners, the local community, scientists and CDEM. They see opportunities for the research to build relationships that foster increased collaboration to design realistic evacuation models together and identify safe and optimal evacuation routes for communities. They aspire to validate and calibrate the evacuation model using established participatory methods such as focus group discussions and workshops, and also with innovative methods such as virtual reality.


The new knowledge gained in the project will provide a deeper understanding of the dynamics of large-scale evacuations of urban areas, which cannot be achieved by drills alone. It will also provide insights into people's likely behaviour during evacuations. The new knowledge will help with tsunami evacuation planning and influence public education to make evacuations quicker and safer.

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