Emergency Procedures: Response Process
Natural disasters don’t follow business hours. They’re often unexpected and unpredictable. Knowing your emergency response, including possible evacuation procedures, helps reduce the risks for you and your family.
October 2020 – 7 minute read
What’s in this article:
- Stay up to date through the media
- What to do during a storm or flash floods
- What to do in a cyclone
- What to do in a bushfire
- What to do in hail or thunderstorm
- Evacuation procedures
- What to do following an emergency
- What to do when you can return to your home
- Get your property back to normal if it’s safe
- Check your insurance
It's essential that everyone knows what to do in natural disasters, such as bushfires, storms, flash floods and lightning. In an emergency we all have a duty of care – an obligation to those we are looking after and ourselves to do the right thing as much as we can. Here are a set of emergency pointers to help during a disaster. Stay up-to-date through the media.
Use a battery-operated radio to listen to the local ABC station for instructions from emergency services and the SES. You can also obtain updates on social media (for example, Facebook and Twitter), and there are also numerous emergency services apps (for example, Australian Fires Bushfire Map). The authorities follow a code of practice which they will use to instruct listeners on what to do. They are also there to help in the event of a medical emergency.
1) What to do during a storm or flash floods
Seek refuge as high as you can and, as part of your emergency response, call emergency services for help. Stay away from windows inside your home. If you’re driving, turn on the hazard lights and pull over to the side of the road. Keep clear of causeways, streams, creeks, drains, trees, and power lines. Never drive or walk through floodwater.
2) What to do in a cyclone
Listen for instructions and evacuation procedures on the radio. If the property you’re sheltering in starts to break up, protect yourself with a rug, blanket, mattress or shelter under a bench or table. Don’t assume the danger has passed in the eye of the cyclone – make sure you wait for the all-clear.
If trapped in a car, put on the hand brake and park away from trees and power lines.
3) What to do in a bushfire
Whether you stay or go can depend on fire safety ratings, how close the bushfire is to you and what fire safety preparations you’ve made previously. It’s important to have a fire safety plan detailing your emergency response – how you’re going to get away, where everyone is meeting, who to contact for information on evacuation and emergency procedures and in case of a medical emergency. For more information please read our Bushfire Preparation guide.
If you stay or leave, take shelter far away from the fire. Move to an area such as a driveway, lawn or to already burnt ground. Do not return inside for any reason. Wear protective clothing such as natural fibre long sleeved shirts and pants, wide-brimmed hats and masks.
If you’re inside a property, some fire safety measures you can take include soaking towels in water and placing under external doors to prevent smoke entering. Close all doors and take refuge in a room that has a door or exit leading outside and wait until it’s clear to leave.
Leaving immediately after a fire has passed, as there may be risks such as fallen trees and power lines. Listen to the radio or check with the local police and emergency services for when it’s safe to leave.
Have a fire aid kit on hand. It should include a fire blanket, extinguisher, leather work gloves, goggles and anti-smoke masks.
4) What to do in hail or thunderstorm
Find the best shelter such as a stairwell or walls with reinforced pipes on the lowest floor of the building. Stay clear of windows and glass doors. Listen to the local radio for alerts of high winds or cyclone, hurricane.
If you’re outside, seek cover away from the wind and protect your head. Keep your face away from windows if inside a vehicle.
If you need to evacuate, follow these important steps:
- Listen to your local radio and check social media and emergency services apps for updates.
- Remain calm: try taking deep breaths, engage in positive self-talk and keep others calm. All these actions can help you keep a clear head for making decisions.
- Do a risk assessment and check for immediate danger, if there is danger call emergency services. Your duty of care obligations require you to keep those in your care as safe as possible.
- Get your emergency kit, important sentimental items, and documents, such as proof of identity, ready.
- Locate your closest exit with a clear passage outside.
- Wear protective clothing and in a fire, a mask.
- Organise pets and animals.
- Disconnect appliances and unplug equipment.
- Never travel through floodwater, stay clear of creeks, streams, drains, causeways, gutters, fallen trees, power lines and damaged buildings.
What to do following an emergency
Living in Australia means we face natural disasters and weather hazards throughout the year. Knowing what to do after an emergency will go a long way to helping get you back on track as soon as possible.
Check yourself and others for injuries;
- Give first aid to those people injured or trapped.
- Take care of life-threatening situations first or call for help.
- Help any elderly neighbours and people with disabilities.
- If you’re at home, check your home. Put on sturdy shoes and protective clothing to prevent injury from debris, such as broken glass and check your home for any damage. If in carrying out a risk assessment of your property you believe your home is unsafe, leave and don’t return. If you’re unable to leave unassisted, call emergency services.
- Make sure you and your property are safe. Call our Westpac emergency assistance service anytime on 1300 369 989 or your insurance provider.
What to do when you can return to your home
When you return, here are some basic things to do:
- Wear protective clothing and a mask.
- Turn off power and gas before entering the property.
- Check for hazards such as live electricity, leaking gas, septic or sewage leaks and major structural damage.
- Call your insurance company as soon as possible, Westpac’s Insurance claims team will be able to provide additional advice and support.
- Make a list of damaged items for the insurance company and don’t throw away any items other than perishable goods.
- Lock and secure entry points to protect your home from theft or vandalism.
Get your property back to normal if it’s safe
- Wear protective clothing including boots, eye protection, gloves and a mask.
- Discard food, drink and medicines that have been exposed or defrosted.
- Have power points checked by a certified electrician and get them to evaluate electrical equipment and the hot water system if it’s electric.
- Inspect gas appliances and gas bottles.
- Clean and run taps for a few minutes to eliminate contaminants.
- Open doors and windows to dry and create air flow.
- Discard porous items such as mattresses, leather goods, soft toys and ceiling insulation.
- Clean walls with a mild detergent.
- Dry rugs and carpet as soon as you can with heaters and fans to prevent them from rotting.
- Scrub furniture with a cleaner and brush outside and in the shade for ventilation, and remember to remove drawers.
- Wipe leather goods with a damp cloth and then a dry cloth. Stuffing leather bags and shoes with newspaper can help them retain their shape.
Check your insurance
It’s a good idea to have your insurer’s details handy and know how to contact them should you need to in an emergency.
Call Westpac emergency assistance service anytime on 1300 369 989.
You should make sure your home and contents insurance is up-to-date and that the sum-insured amount is enough to rebuild or replace your contents. Use our Home Insurance Calculators to check your insurance needs, such as Home Building and Home Contents.
Home and contents insurance helps you get back on your feet if your home or personal belongings are affected in an unforeseen event. You could save up to 25%^.
You may find these useful
Things you should know
^Quote and buy online and save 15% off your annual premium for the first year with promotional code COVER. Plus, save a further 10% when you combine home and contents located at the same address under one policy. Home and Contents Insurance is issued by Westpac General Insurance Limited ABN 99 003 719 319 (except workers compensation cover where applicable).