Assessing and improving the effectiveness of staff training and warning system response at Whakapapa and Turoa ski areas, Mt. Ruapehu. (2006)
AuthorsChristianson, Amy Nadineshow all
Ruapehu is an active volcano located on the North Island of New Zealand, with the most recent major eruptions occurring in 1945, 1969, 1975, and 1995/96. Ruapehu is also home to the three major North Island ski areas, Whakapapa, Turoa, and Tukino. Because of the high frequency of eruptions, there is a significant volcanic hazard at the ski areas particularly from lahars which can form even after minor eruptions. Most recently, lahars have affected Whakapapa ski area in 1969, 1975, and 1995/96. The most significant risk at Turoa is from ballistic bombs due to the proximity of the top two T-Bars to the crater. Ash fall has also caused disruption at the ski areas, covering the snow and causing damage to structures. There is yet to be a death at the ski areas from a volcanic event; however the risk at the ski areas is too high to be completely ignored. The ski areas at Whakapapa and Turoa are currently operated by Ruapehu Alpine Lifts (RAL), who have been significantly improving their commitment to providing volcanic hazard training for their staff and preparing for handling a volcanic eruption. RAL is joined by the Institute of Geological Sciences (GNS) and the Department of Conservation (DoC) in trying to mitigate this risk through a range of initiatives, including an automated Eruption Detection System (EDS), linked to sirens and loudspeakers on Whakapapa ski areas, as well as by providing staff training and public education. The aim of this study was to provide RAL with recommendations to improve their staff training and warning system response. Staff induction week at both Turoa and Whakapapa ski areas was observed. Surveys were distributed and collected from staff at both ski areas, and interviews were conducted with staff at Whakapapa ski area. Data obtained from staff interviews and surveys provided the author with insight into staff's mental models regarding a volcanic event response. A simulation of the warning system was observed, as well as a blind test, to collect data on the effectiveness of training on staff response. Results indicated permanent and seasonal staff were knowledgeable of the volcanic hazards that may affect the ski areas, but had differing perspectives on the risk associated with those hazards. They were found to be confident in the initial response to a volcanic event (i.e. move to higher ground), but were unsure of what would happen after this initial response. RAL was also found to have greatly improved their volcanic hazard training in the past year, however further recommendations were suggested to increase training effectiveness. A training needs analysis was done for different departments at the ski areas by taking a new approach of anticipating demands staff may encounter during a volcanic event and complementing these demands with existing staff competencies. Additional recommendations were made to assist RAL in developing an effective plan to use when responding to volcanic events, as well as other changes that could be made to improve the likelihood of customer safety at the ski areas during an eruption.