Being prepared when Mother Nature strikes

The summer months are upon us, signalling the start of what can be referred to as the ‘disaster season’. 

Bushfires, storms, floods and other natural disasters extract a devastating financial and emotional toll on so many Australians each year. Properties can be destroyed, and sometimes even lives lost. The love of our home, community and land is so deeply ingrained in our national psyche that we sometimes take these things for granted until tragedy strikes.

Here are some simple tips to help protect your loved ones, your home and your precious memories.

Know who to contact

Keeping informed as things unfold is paramount to ensuring you and your family stay safe and are ready to either evacuate or shelter in place. Ensure you follow the directives from emergency services – they are the experts. If you aren’t sure who your local contacts are, here is a useful list of key emergency numbers and websites.

Have a plan

There are some handy online checklists and templates available that can assist when putting together an emergency action plan for your family. Information you’ll want to include are things like your shelter plan, what to do if you’re separated, your evacuation route and how you will stay in contact.

You might also want to sign up to receive alerts from different sources. Warning sirens may not be sufficient depending on the situation, or your television may not be working, so it’s important not to rely on a single source for information.

Practice, practice, practice

It might feel really strange at the time, but having a practice run could make a huge difference to how your family responds during an emergency – this is especially true for those with children or pets. Below are some ideas to consider when running a drill:

  • get familiar with the evacuation route 
  • set specific meeting points, both close to home and out of town as a back-up 
  • practice using safety equipment like fire escape ladders or the fire extinguisher 
  • assign a family member to help young children, the elderly or pets 
  • practice different scenarios.

Pack an emergency kit

An emergency kit will get you through those challenging first 24 to 72 hours, where you may find yourself without access to food, water, power and other essentials. Your basic supplies kit should include (as a minimum) water, non-perishable foods, first-aid kit, batteries, mobile phone with spare battery, torch, whistle, personal sanitation, medication and a local map.

The ‘Ready’ government site has a comprehensive list and other useful ideas for your emergency supplies.

Get your admin in order

Do you have the appropriate insurance cover, including cover for storm, flood and fire? Understanding your present and future insurance needs particularly if you live in a bushfire or flood prone area is crucial. Having the right level of cover will give you peace of mind when you need it most. The Westpac Group offers a range of insurance cover to protect the things you value most. Click here to find out more.

If you have a mortgage or a loan on your property, you should also get in touch with the bank when possible. Depending on your circumstances, they may be able to assist with relief or deferring of loan payments, if you are eligible.

Surviving a natural disaster can leave you and your family with tremendous emotional stress, and even grief. Getting your insurance and banking needs in order early will help to reduce financial burden, so that you can focus on recovery and rebuilding your lives.

Protect your past

In times of emergency, and especially with the swiftness with which such disasters can strike, it's often not possible to gather up personal belongings in time to evacuate. Preparing for the future often calls for conserving the past.

When it comes to family photography, a good idea is to place memorable photos on a high-resolution disc and store them in a separate location. Not only in the case of bushfires or floods but even burglary or a hard drive crash.

Stay safe this summer – and please contact us on 132 135 if you need help with any of your BT accounts during this time.

Next: What to do after a natural disaster

There are many different steps you can take after you suffer a fire, flood or any other terrible catastrophe to help you get back on your feet fast.
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This information is current as at 15/08/2016.

This article provides an overview or summary only and it should not be considered a comprehensive statement on any matter or relied upon as such.

This information does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs and so you should consider its appropriateness, having regard to your personal objectives, financial situation and needs having regard to these factors before acting on it.

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