What to do after a natural disaster

4 min read

A bushfire wiped out your home and all your possessions. Or your house is currently under water. Where do you begin when you’ve gone through a natural disaster? Here are some tips to help you during the difficult time ahead.

Stay safe and up-to-date

Whether you evacuated, or remained in your home, make sure you are somewhere safe and secure and keep yourself informed on the situation. Is the storm over? Is it safe to return home to check the damage? Follow the directions of emergency services. If you do return home, be careful and watch for hazards.If you need help, use the following numbers:

Ambulance/Fire/Police – 000

SES 24 hour emergency line – 132 500

Local police – 131 444

You can check on the situation through the State Emergency Services in your state:

ACT – www.esa.act.gov.au

NSW – www.ses.nsw.gov.au

QLD – www.emergency.qld.gov.au

Tasmania – www.ses.tas.gov.au

Western Australia – www.emergency.wa.gov.au

South Australia – www.ses.sa.gov.au

Victoria – www.ses.vic.gov.au

Northern Territory – www.pfes.nt.gov.au

Checking on family and friends

It’s important to check on your family and friends and let them know you are safe too. You can register with the National Registration and Inquiry System by calling 1800 727 077 or visiting https://register.redcross.org.au. You can also use this service to check that family or friends are safe if you can’t get in touch with them.

Contact your insurance provider as soon as possible

If you are insured, contact your insurer to let them know what has happened even if you haven’t been able to return home to see the full extent of the damage yet. Your insurer will be able to let you know what the next steps are, which may include completing a form and providing evidence of ownership, and then discuss any short-term relief you may be able to access while your insurer processes your claim. If you don’t have your policy number, don’t worry – they should still be able to identify you by asking you to answer a few security questions.

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.

Is your home and contents or Landlord Insurance with Westpac General Insurance Limited?  Make your claim by phoning the relevant number below:

For Westpac Home and Contents and Landlord Insurance: 1300 369 989

For St.George Home and Contents and Landlord Insurance: 1300 655 489

For Bank of Melbourne Home and Contents and Landlord Insurance: 1300 020 266

For BankSA Home and Contents and Landlord Insurance: 1300 656 345

For RAMS Home and Contents and Landlord Insurance: 1300 652 334

Finding somewhere to stay while your home is unliveable

For some people, finding a temporary place to live might be as easy as calling on family and friends. If this isn’t an option for you, there are a few things you can do.

1) Stay at a hotel or hostel

Many insurance policies cover costs for temporary accommodation, you can call your insurer to discuss options for arranging temporary accommodation. In some circumstances you may have to pay upfront and then claim the costs back. Check with your insurance provider on your policy.

2) Crisis accommodation

If you don’t have insurance and can’t afford costs for somewhere to live, you can contact 1800 825 955 (free call, 24 hours) for help. They will be able to help you find the nearest support centre for your community.

ACT – First Point – 1800 176 468

NSW – Link2Home – 1800 152 152

Victoria – Opening Doors - 1800 825 955

QLD – Homeless Hotline – 1800 47 47 53

WA – Salvo Care Line – 08 9442 5777

SA – Homelessness Gateway – 1800 003 308

NT – Shelter Me – www.shelterme.org.au

TAS – Homeless Support Helpline – 1800 800 588

Disaster relief payments and allowance

The Australian government offers a variety of disaster relief payments, including short term income support, depending on your situation and means.

You can contact 180 2266 for assistance and to apply for a payment.

www.disasterassist.gov.au also provides details on any specific programs for the natural disaster affecting you.

Emergency cash

If you have your cards with you, you can use these for purchases or to get cash from an ATM or your bank. However, if you don’t have these, there are still options:
- use your bank phone app to access cardless cash from an ATM.
- visit your bank branch to identify yourself and access your account
- contact your bank to let them know the situation, identify yourself and arrange for an alternative way of accessing cash
- contact your employer to see what strategies they have in place to help you (or to provide an advance).

Your wellbeing after a natural disaster

Going through a natural disaster can be traumatic and stressful. If you need emotional support after the experience, there are a range of organisations you can speak to. Two options are listed below but you can also search online to find services specific to your state.

National Disaster Support – 180 22 66

Lifeline – 13 11 14

You can also speak to charitable organisations like the Red Cross or Salvation Army for a range of support services.

Stay safe – and please contact us on 132 135 if you need help with your insurance, investments or banking during this time.

Sources: SES Australia, Australian Government Department of Human Services

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This information is current as at 23/12/2016.

This information is general information only and has been prepared as a general guide only.

Home and Contents Insurance and Landlord Insurance are issued by Westpac General Insurance Limited ABN 99 003 719 319 (“WGIL”) (except workers compensation cover where applicable).  WGIL is a subsidiary of Westpac Banking Corporation ABN 33 007 457 141 (“the Bank”).  St.George Bank, BankSA and Bank of Melbourne – are all Divisions of the Bank.  The Bank arranges the Insurance, but does not guarantee the Insurance. This information does not take into account your personal circumstances.  Terms and conditions, and limitations and exclusions apply.  Read the relevant Product Disclosure Statement, to see if either of these Insurances are right for you. You can call or contact on the following details:

For Westpac Home and Contents and Landlord Insurance: 1300 650 255 or visit www.westpac.com.au
For St.George Home and Contents and Landlord Insurance: 13 33 30 or visit www.stgeorge.com.au
For Bank of Melbourne Home and Contents and Landlord Insurance: 13 22 66 or visit www.bankofmelbourne.com.au
For BankSA Home and Contents and Landlord Insurance: 1300 554 002 or visit www.banksa.com.au

© BT Financial Group – A Division of Westpac Banking Corporation ABN 33 007 457 141 AFSL and Australian credit licence 233714