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How to prepare your home for natural disasters
Natural disasters can be absolutely devastating. Over the years, Australians all around the country have found themselves affected by various severe acts of Mother Nature - from softball-sized hail in Sydney (1999), to traumatic bushfires burning over 450,000 hectares in Victoria (2009), to extreme flooding affecting more than 200,000 Queenslanders (2010-11).
When these natural disasters strike, locals can be left feeling distraught. However, there are some actions that you can take to prepare your home for natural disasters before they happen. Damage isn’t always avoidable, but following these tips can at least help you keep safe, and potentially lessen the effects of natural disasters you might encounter.
Create a home inspection checklist
No matter what natural disaster you’re preparing for, it’s a good idea to create a checklist for your home. While each checklist will vary based on your local conditions and weather events, here are some things you should consider:
- Review your home insurance periodically and ensure you have adequate cover
- Clean drains, gutters and downpipes regularly
- Bring loose objects inside, or tie them down
- Ensure your mobile phone battery is full (and use it sparingly in the case of a storm)
- Assemble an Emergency Kit for your family
- Keep a list of emergency contact numbers handy
- Plan what you will do in an emergency, identifying the nearest safe ground
- Buy emergency supplies of fresh water, batteries, candles and non-perishable foods.
Bushfires have always been present in Australia - particularly in South Australia and Victoria where hot, dry summers are the norm and there are plenty of oil-bearing eucalypts around.
If you’re in a bushfire prone area, it’s important to have a protection plan in place. Some actions you can take include:
- Mow your grass regularly, including the front and back lawn
- Enclose open areas under your deck and floors
- Seal all gaps in external roof and wall cladding
- Relocate any flammable liquid away from your home.
For more tips and information on preparing a bushfire protection plan, you can contact your local fire station and SES services.
Australians living in cyclone-prone areas – like northern Queensland – understand the havoc that this kind of natural disaster can wreak. Cyclone season along Queensland’s coast usually occurs between November and April, and can see winds of up to 300km/h, torrential rains, storm surges and wild seas occurring.
The best defence against cyclones is making sure your property is strong enough to withstand them, which you can do by:
- Asking your local council if your home is built to cyclone standards
- Checking your roof and repairing any loose tiles, eaves or roof screws
- Fitting windows with shutters, plywood or metal screens to prevent glass from shattering
- Trimming any branches hanging over your house and clearing gutters of debris
- Putting an action plan in place so you know what to do when a cyclone event strikes
Storms come in many shapes and sizes, and each year they represent a real threat to homes in Australia. Wild weather events can produce strong winds normally accompanied by rain, thunder and lightning. Thunderstorms and strong gale winds are the two most common types of storms, posing danger to personal safety and property. They can also produce damaging hail, strong wind gusts, flash flooding, tornadoes and lightning.
So how can you protect your home against storms? Here’s a brief list of what you can do:
- Seal your entry points like doors and windows. You might consider boarding up windows with storm shutters or plywood to stop the likelihood of glass shattering
- Tie down and secure any loose objects. Outdoor objects surrounding your home can be swept up with storms and potentially cause property damage
- Create a home inventory to weather the storm. Stock up on your favourite canned foods and ensure you have a battery-operated torch and radio on hand
Every year, especially in Queensland, floods cause millions of dollars of damage to buildings and critical infrastructure. Roads, railway, agricultural land and property can all be susceptible to the effects of flooding. When heavy rainfall hits, natural watercourses don’t have the capacity to move excess water out. This can result in flash flooding along rivers and drainage systems left without the capacity to cope with the downpour.
A few steps you can take to protect your home from flooding include:
- Ensure your allotment is properly graded, so that water can drain away from your exterior walls
- Repair sidewalks, patios, decks or driveways that have shifted over the years, which may allow water to pool dangerously close to the home
- Landscape your garden with plants and vegetation that will minimise soil erosion
- Keep storm drains near your home clear of leaves and debris
- Repair or replace your roof if tiles are deteriorating or missing
Protect your pets in a natural disaster
When faced with any natural disaster, you’ll want to have a plan for your pets too. Knowing what to do ahead of time can make a huge difference to the safety of pets. Here are a few general guidelines on how to prepare to care for your furry or feathered loved ones during a natural disaster:
- Include your pets in your emergency plan and emergency kit
- Always leave pets enough water to last several days
- Ensure pets have a collar or microchip, and are registered with the council
Above all, of course, should be your personal safety. Preparing your home before a natural disaster may be able to decrease the severity of the damage that occurs to your property, but nothing should ever come before the safety of yourself and your loved ones. This might mean you have to leave behind personal belongings or even evacuate your home, but doing so is always better than putting yourself or others at danger.
AAMI Home Building and Home Contents Insurance, Landlord Insurance, Strata Insurance, Car Insurance, Motorcycle Insurance, NSW and ACT CTP Insurance, Caravan Insurance, Business Insurance and Travel Insurance are issued by AAI Limited ABN 48 005 297 807 AFSL 230859 (AAI) trading as AAMI. Consider the Product Disclosure Statement before making a decision about this insurance. This advice has been prepared without taking into account your particular objectives, financial situations or needs, so you should consider whether it is appropriate for you before acting on it.