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Natural Disasters in Australia: Preparation Guide

Bushfire, flood, heatwave, cyclone, severe weather events, power outages or even a medical emergency – be better prepared and able to cope. Read on for tips.

September 2020 – 6 minute read

What’s in this article:

  • How to prepare for a disaster
  • What to expect from future disasters
  • Worst natural disasters that have occurred in Australia


 

Natural disasters in Australia have a long history. You only need to look back at Bureau of Meteorology records for proof or think about media reports on insurance claims made following severe weather events.


Natural disasters include heatwaves, bushfires, floods, storms and cyclones, earthquakes, tsunamis and landslides. By preparing for these events and any natural hazards that come with them you can reduce the risk to you and your family as well as the possible financial impacts.


Read on for emergency management tips.

How to prepare for a disaster

From cyclone Tracy and the Queensland floods to our most recent summer bushfires, severe weather events in Australia are often deadly, and have an economic impact on us all.


There are 4 steps to help you prepare. Each step can be done in advance so you’re ready if something happens.

1) Understand the dangers and how you’ll cope.

Draw up a watch and act plan: remember this means any time of the day and night someone needs to be watching and ready to act.


Assess
the risk of damage for you and your family and property where you live. Are you near bush, grass or flood plain, for example? In high wind and rain what might happen to you and around your property?


Reduce
natural hazards where you can: trim trees, remove leaves in gutters, move or tie down objects, like garden furniture, or gas bottles, that may become missiles in wind, clear blocked drains.


Know
where to get information in an emergency and who can help you: State Emergency Services (call 132 500), fire services, police, ambulance (call 000) are examples. Listen to ABC local radio for up-to-date news.


Ask
yourself: what insurance do I need? Understand the different types of insurance and what they cover, so you can make sure you’re adequately covered if something were to happen. You might also want to think about what health insurance, contents insurance and pet insurance you need.


Find
out how to make insurance claims so you have everything you need to do this if necessary.


Emergency management is stressful. Being prepared will help keep your stress levels down andyou’ll make better decisions in an emergency.

2) Stay connected.

Have a communications plan: include names and up-to-date numbers of people, emergency organisations (call 132 500), medical, banks and insurances you can contact for help and information. Share the plan with your family members. Decide on a meeting place for members of your household, including children. You may need more than one place. Have a plan A, B and C for emergency exits and ways out of your property and/or danger zone.


Remember: traditional evacuation centres and areas (community halls, church halls) may not be possible in Covid-19. Check with your local authorities.

3) Organise safe places and storage of your important documents.

Pets, livestock, and storage of insurances, important documents –all need a safe place to go or be stored. Having your documents for identification stored safely can help make your recovery simpler. Make sure you have the right insurance cover that’s up to date, it will make insurance claims after a disaster less stressful and will also help reduce the economic impact you may experience.

4) Pack your emergency kit.

You’ll need some basic things to get you by without electricity or water for up to 72 hours. Store items in a waterproof box in an easy access location.

Download the Emergency Checklist PDF for details of what to pack and do:

Emergency checklist (PDF 1MB)

What to expect from future disasters

The Bureau of Meteorology data can tell us a lot about the weather. It helps us map and identify changing weather patterns and determine the intensity of possible events. Knowing what to expect in the storm season, including how much earlier it begins, means you’re able to better prepare.


We’ve all heard about the economic impact of thunderstorms, in particular from hail. In fact, losses from severe thunderstorms make up about “50% of all loss-producing natural hazard events that occur in Australia”. Floods, like the Queensland floods, are also predicted to become more intense along with other natural hazards like bushfire and cyclones.


In light of these predictions, preparing early and as comprehensively as possible makes sense.


Check your insurances are up to date. Call Westpac on 1300 650 255.


Check out our Home Building Calculator to understand if your current insurance policies are enough to help you rebuild and replace all you may lose in a disaster.


If you think you may be underinsured, have a look at our Home Contents Calculator to work out the value of your assets.


In the event of a natural disaster we are here to help our affected customers through the financial and economic impact. For both personal and business customers we may be able to help with your home loan repayments, or an interest free loan, for example.

What we learnt from the worst natural disasters in Australia

If there’s one thing we can learn from Australia’s worst natural disasters it is the importance of being prepared and how easily something can happen to us. The economic impact of just some of the natural disasters in Australia are eye-watering on a national economic scale and tragic for anyone who is affected personally.


Cyclone Tracy hit Darwin on Christmas Eve 1974, flattening the city and killing 64 people and injuring many thousands. More than half of Darwin's population of 43,000 was left homeless.


The Queensland floods, of November 2010 through to 2011, forced the evacuation of thousands of people from towns and cities. More than 30 people died, and damage reached $2.38 billion. Economists estimated the reduction in Australia’s GDP to be about $30 billion.


Bushfires between June 2019 and March 2020 destroyed around 3500 homes and killed 34 people. Economists estimate that the bushfires will cost over A$103 billion in property damage and economic losses, making them our costliest natural disaster to date.


There has been considerable debate regarding the underlying cause of the intensity and scale of natural disasters in Australia, including the role of climate change. Projections of fire weather suggest that fire seasons will start earlier, end slightly later, and generally be more intense.


Most of us don’t think it will happen to us. But with the increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters; greater proximity of people, livestock, and property to fire, flood, cyclone and storm prone areas and, of course, the danger to our wildlife and bushlands, it is important we all plan early.


Preparation can save lives and property. Understanding your insurance policies, including how to make insurance claims, may also reduce financial costs.


See here for our how to guides: storm, bushfire, cyclone, flood.

 

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Things you should know

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