Australia may be a land of droughts and flooding rains, but it’s also a land of summer heatwaves, bushfires and cyclones. We've compiled these tips from the nation’s emergency services to help you prepare for the natural disasters that are sure to hit somewhere this summer.
Prepare your home
- Check your roof and repair any loose tiles, eaves or roof screws - or ask someone to help you.
- Trim any branches hanging over your house, clear gutters of leaves and debris and secure loose objects in your yard.
- Decide how you will look after your pets and what you will do if you must leave them behind in case of evacuation. Move cars and other motor vehicles under cover.
- Are you adequately insured? Make sure your insurance covers you for storm surge, flooding and cyclone damage, including clean-up and debris removal.
- Let neighbours know a cyclone warning has been issued.
- Fill buckets and bath with water (in case your water supply is cut off). Make sure you have enough water purification tablets.
During a cyclone
If you shelter at home:
- Turn off electricity, gas and water; unplug all appliances.
- Keep your emergency kit close at hand.
- Bring your family into the strongest part of the house (often, this is the bathroom).
- Keep listening to the radio for cyclone updates.
- If the building begins to break up, shelter under a strong table, bench or heavy mattress.
- Beware the calm eye of the cyclone: stay inside until told it is safe to go outside.
When an official evacuation order is issued:
- Act immediately. follow directives from emergency services personnel; seek a public shelter or stay with friends/family further inland or on higher ground.
- Check your neighbours have received the updated information.
- Turn off electricity, gas and water; unplug all appliances.
- Lock your doors.
- Make sure everyone in your household is wearing strong shoes and suitable clothing.
- Take your emergency survival kit; begin your evacuation plan.
- Visiting from out of town? The local council or emergency agency will let you know your best options for evacuation.
- If you cannot take your pets with you, make sure they are in a safe place (garage, laundry, etc.). Leave them with food and water. Do not tie them up.
The time immediately after a cyclone is often just as dangerous as the event. Deaths and injuries can happen when people go exploring or sightseeing.
- Listen to your radio and remain indoors until an official all clear has been given by authorities.
- If you are told to return to your home, do so using the recommended routes only.
- Do not go sightseeing.
- Check on your neighbours, family and friends.
- Have electrical appliances that have become wet checked before using them.
- Boil or purify your water until supplies are declared safe.
- Stay away from damaged powerlines, fallen trees and flood water.
When a flood warning is issued, protect your family and property:
- Stack possessions on benches and tables, placing electrical items on top.
- Secure objects likely to float and cause damage.
- Relocate waste containers, chemicals and poisons well above floor level.
- Keep listening to your local radio station for information, updates and advice.
- Keep in contact with your neighbours.
- Be prepared to evacuate if advised by emergency services.
- Act early as roads may become congested or be closed.
- Contact your local council if you want information on how flooding could directly affect your property.
- Avoid driving or walking through flood waters. Just 15cm of moving water can knock you down and 30cm of water can sweep your vehicle away. Remember: if it’s flooded, forget it.
- Find out where evacuation centres will be set up in your area.
- Check with friends or relatives outside the flood-prone area to organise a place to go.
Sandbags can be purchased from some local hardware stores or landscaping suppliers. During times of flood, quantities may be distributed by your local council.
Contact your local council or visit their website for further information.
Taking the following preparations can help reduce the impact of extreme heat waves.
- Make sure your home is well ventilated and wear loose clothing appropriate to the temperature.
- Refrigerate bottles of drinking water. Keep hydrated but don’t drink coffee, sugary drinks or alcohol. They will make you thirstier.
- Check on elderly neighbours/friends to make sure they are well prepared.
- Go to a library, cinema or shopping centre with airconditioning, if you don’t have aircon in your own home. Or use fans, ice packs or ice towels.
- Stock up on cool foods e.g. salads, cold meats, fruit, ice-cream.
- Know the signs of heat stress and if fainting occurs, call an ambulance.
If you decide to leave early you will need to:
- Prepare yourself and your family – make sure everyone knows your plan and what to do in a bush fire (who will go, where will you go, how will you get there, what route will you take, and what will you take with you).
- Prepare your home – a well-prepared home is more likely to survive a bushfire or ember attack and can make it easier for fire fighters to defend it.
- Have a contingency plan just in case things don’t go as expected e.g. what if your car doesn’t start, the road is blocked, or you don’t have time to leave.
Staying and defending
If you decide to stay and defend your well-prepared property you will need to:
- Know the bushfire alert levels.
- Keep all bushfire information numbers, websites and the smartphone app.
- Have a contingency plan just in case things don’t go as expected e.g. what if your partner is at work, or you have elderly visitors?
- Know what the fire danger rating is in your area.
- Be aware of weather conditions, particularly on hot, dry and windy days.
- Watch for signs of fire, especially smoke.
- Look and listen for the Bush Fire Alerts using a variety of sources, including TV, radio, internet, mobile phones and friends, family and neighbours.
An emergency kit provides essential items for your family’s short term survival whether you choose to stay at home or need to relocate to a safer place before, during or after a major event such as cyclone, storm, flood or bushfire.
Include the following items:
- Portable, battery operated AM/FM radio with extra batteries
- Waterproof torch with extra batteries
- First aid kit and manual
- Bottled drinking water (to last at least three days for each person)
- Canned or non-perishable food items and can opener (to last at least three days for each person)
- Copies of important documents. Scan copies of these documents and save them on a USB memory stick or CD to include in your kit. Keep these items in sealed plastic bags
- Survival plan with emergency contact phone numbers
Note: Evacuation centres do not allow pets, so you won’t be able to take them with you (other than guide and assistance dogs). Plan where to relocate them if your home is not safe.
A final word…
Part of your preparations should be to ensure your house and contents insurance is up to date. While most insurers automatically index the amount insured to cover inflation, if you’ve done renovations or extensions, you need to check they are covered.
Always read your Policy Disclosure Statement (PDS) and Certificate of Insurance. These documents will tell you what events and damage you are covered for, your insured amounts, any limits, conditions and excesses that apply.
“But if a natural disaster does happen, your best friend on the ground is the State Emergency Services (SES) – call 132 500 – because they can help with urgent jobs such as sandbagging or spreading tarpaulins, and prevent a loss occurring.” – Chris Grice, National Seniors Australia, General Manager Insurance.
This article by Rosemary Desmond originally appeared in the September/October/November 2017 edition of 50 something magazine.
In arranging this insurance, National Seniors Australia Ltd ABN 89 050 523 003 AR 282736 acts for the insurer Allianz Australia Insurance Limited ABN 15 000 122 850 AFSL 234708. We do not provide advice on this insurance based on any consideration of your objectives, financial situation or needs. Terms, conditions and exclusions apply. If you purchase this insurance, we will receive a commission that is a percentage of the premium. Ask us for more details before we provide you with any services on this product. Before making a decision please read the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) and the Supplementary PDS available by calling National Seniors on 1300 50 50 99 or from this website.