Natural Disaster Safety & Security

Natural disasters such as bushfires, floods and tropical cyclones occur every year across Australia. These extreme weather related events cause millions of dollars worth of damage and serious disruption to communities.

There are simple steps you can take to reduce the risk of damage to your home and help keep your family safe.

Before the bushfire

Be prepared at the start of the bushfire season. There are plenty of things you can do right now to get bushfire ready.

  • Keep up the gardening. Rake up leaves, trim grass and cut back overgrown shrubs and tree branches. If you can’t afford expensive equipment like chainsaws or scrub-cutters to clear overgrown areas, hire the gear you need or get a professional to assist
  • Clean out gutters and downpipes regularly.
  • Remove all rubbish from around the house.
  • Regularly recycle newspapers. Don't store piles of recycling material close to the house.
  • Store flammable liquids and paint away from the house. Face LPG gas bottle valves away from the house.
  • Pool chemicals can ignite if placed near other flammable liquids, so store them separately.
  • Buy a fire extinguisher and fire blanket and know how to use them.
  • Keep a torch and portable radio with spare batteries.
  • Think about the impact of a power failure - cordless phones and automatic garage doors won't work. Your mobile phone may not have coverage.
  • Keep garden hoses connected to outside taps and make sure they reach all parts of your home and garden.
  • Keep a ladder handy that can reach the roof, plus basic tools like a rake, spade, axe and saw.
  • Put spark guards in your chimney and clean your chimney every year.
  • Put fire-resistant mesh screens under verandahs if you live in a bushfire-prone area.
  • Clearly mark all water sources and keep access clear. In NSW, call the Rural Fire Service to register your water with the Static Water Supply (SWS) marking system for use in fire fighting.
  • Prepare an emergency evacuation kit: include valuables, important documents, photos, food and water, first aid kit, pet food and any essential medication.

During the bushfire

Want to stay to defend your home? The only people who should stay are those physically capable of working quickly before, during and after the main fire has passed.

  • Keep a portable radio on for the latest information
  • Turn off the electricity and gas and remove gas cylinders near the house
  • Close all windows and doors, and put wet towels in gaps around windows and beneath doors
  • Block downpipes and fill gutters with water. Also fill the bath, basins, sinks, buckets and bottles of drinking water
  • Hose down the roof, walls and gardens and turn on the sprinkler. When the fire is very nearby, take hoses and plastic fittings inside or they will melt
  • Remove curtains and blinds from windows. Put doormats inside
  • Park the car in a cleared area. Close the windows and leave keys in the ignition. Store woollen blankets inside
  • The right clothes can protect you from radiant heat.

In the event of fire, wear:

  • Long sleeved woollen or heavy cotton clothing. Make sure everything you wear is of natural fibre
  • Solid boots or shoes with wool or cotton socks
  • Gloves, especially if your hands aren't used to working with tools
  • A wide-brimmed hat or hardhat. Leave ears uncovered - they warn you of heat levels
  • A bandanna or large handkerchief tied loosely over your mouth and nose can protect you from smoke and hot air
  • If clothing catches fire - stop, drop to the ground and roll

When the main fire front is nearby:

  • Stay outside for as long as you can to put out spot fires near the house or in the guttering
  • Go inside when the smoke starts to thicken and stay away from windows until it passes - usually 5 to 15 minutes. Keep pets inside too
  • Keep checking all the rooms for embers and broken windows.

After the bushfire

It will be hot, dark, smoky and noisy, but the main firefront will pass in 10 to 20 minutes. However, the period up to 10 hours following a bushfire can be crucial. This is when spot fires can start from burning embers.

  • Constantly check for and put out any spot fires near the house or in the roof cavity
  • If the house is alight and can't be extinguished, move away onto burnt ground. Wait for help
  • Do not drive until police allocate safe routes

The information on this website has been prepared by Insurance Australia Limited trading as NRMA Insurance for general guidance. It should not be relied upon as professional advice on managing specific safety risks.

The information on this website is for general guidance only and should not be relied upon as professional advice on managing specific safety risks.

 

Heavy rain, high winds and hail can cause substantial damage to your home but it's damage that can often be prevented. Maintaining your property is your first line of defence.
Here are some weekend tasks that can make a difference should a storm strike.

  • Clean gutters and downpipes and check the roof for leaks
  • Sweep debris away from drains and fix any that are blocked
  • Trim tree branches near the house (after checking with your local council)
  • Tidy away any loose objects that could blow around
  • In a cyclone-prone area, it's a good idea to fit permanent shutters or at least metal screens to glass windows and doors.

Before the storm or cyclone

  • Remove loose objects that might get broken or cause damage if blown around
  • Tie down (or fill with water) large, relatively light things like garbage bins and boats
  • Shelter and secure your pets
  • Shelter vehicles or cover them with a tarpaulin or blankets - make sure you have a full tank of fuel in case you need and are able to evacuate
  • If floods are likely, move outdoor equipment, cardboard boxes, garbage, chemicals and poisons to somewhere up high
  • Fill your sinks and bath with fresh drinking water
  • Check your emergency kit.

During the storm or cyclone

Stay safe when the storm or cyclone hits.

  • Shelter in the strongest part of your home, like the bathroom, cellar, hallway or built-in wardrobe
  • If necessary, cover yourself with a mattress, blanket, doona or tarpaulin, under a table
  • Stay clear of windows and skylights. Close curtains and blinds to protect against flying glass
  • Listen to a portable radio for weather updates
  • If flooding is likely, put furniture, TV and rugs as high as you can
  • If you're driving, slow down or park away from trees, powerlines and creeks or rivers
  • Don't use the landline telephone and disconnect electrical appliances - it's dangerous if there's lightning about
  • Don’t shelter under a tree - if you're outside, find solid shelter
  • Don’t lie down if you’re caught outside without shelter, crouch down low with your feet together. (You want as little of your body touching the ground as possible to reduce the risk of being struck by lightning)

After the storm or cyclone - clean up

Inside

  • Check your home for damage to windows, walls or roof
  • For emergency assistance call your local State Emergency Service on 132 500
  • If returning to your home, make sure electricity and gas is off before going inside. Use only a torch until you're sure there's no gas around
  • Check your neighbours are OK
  • Remove what excess water you can and mop sodden carpets
  • Look out for spiders and snakes that may have moved in to escape the flood
  • Don't eat food that's been in contact with floodwater and boil water until supplies have been declared safe

Appliances

  • Have gas appliances inspected and cleaned to prevent an explosion or fire
  • Check your smoke detectors are still working
  • Don't use electrical items that got wet; have them professionally tested

Outside

  • Beware of fallen powerlines, damaged trees and flooded creeks
  • Look out for snakes and other animals
  • If you must enter flood waters, wear solid shoes, not thongs or bare feet, and check the depth and current with a stick
  • Stay away from drains, culverts and water that's more than knee-deep
  • Don't drive until you know it's safe
  • Don't let children play in or near floodwaters

The information on this website is for general guidance only and should not be relied upon as professional advice on managing specific safety risks.

If you know a flood is on the way - get ready!

Before the flood

Inside your home

  • Pack warm clothes, valuables, personal items and photos in waterproof bags
  • Move what household items you can to a higher place. Put furniture up onto beds and tables - keep electrical items up on top
  • Be careful if you're putting things up in your roof space or an upper level, these areas may not be able to safely support extra weight unless they've been specially strengthened beforehand
  • Empty your fridge and freezer and leave the doors open to stop the appliances from floating
  • Turn off the electricity, gas and water. Take your mobile phone
  • Put sandbags in the toilet bowl and over all bathroom and laundry drain holes to stop sewage flowing back inside
  • Seal doors and windows with plastic, silicon or plywood; put sandbags where you can for added support

Outside your home

  • Roll out builder's plastic around the base of your home - leaving 40cm on the ground to put the sandbags on. Tape remaining plastic to the outside walls to a height of 1.5m. Keep downpipes on the outside of the plastic
  • Check and seal all ventilation holes, cellar doorways and points where water can get in
  • Open gates or fences to allow water to flow freely
  • Don't drive into water if you don't know how deep it is or how fast it's flowing

After the flood - Mopping up after the flood

Inside your home

  • Check your home for damage to windows, wall or roof
  • For emergency assistance call your local State Emergency Service
  • If returning to your home, make sure electricity and gas is off before going inside. Use only a torch until you're sure there's no gas around.
  • Check your neighbours are OK
  • Remove what excess water you can and mop sodden carpets
  • Look out for spiders and snakes that may have moved in to escape the flood
  • Don't eat food that's been in contact with floodwater and boil water until supplies have been declared safe

Appliances

  • Have gas appliances inspected and cleaned to prevent an explosion or fire
  • Check your smoke detectors are still working
  • Don't use electrical items that got wet, have them professionally tested

Outside your home

  • Beware of fallen powerlines, damaged trees and flooded creeks
  • Look out for snakes and other animals
  • If you must enter flood waters, wear solid shoes, not thongs or bare feet, and check the depth and current with a stick.
  • Stay away from drains, culverts and water that's more than knee-deep.
  • Don't drive until you know it's safe.
  • Don't let children play in or near floodwaters.

Contact SGIC Helpline on 132 900 for assistance to SGIC Insurance policyholders

The information on this website is for general guidance only and should not be relied upon as professional advice on managing specific safety risks.