From the months of November to April, Australia expects an onslaught of tropical cyclones. Cyclones, defined as systems of wind that rotate inward around an area of low atmospheric pressure, gain powerful currents from Australia’s warm ocean waters. Though a cyclone starts and ends over water, it can pick up considerable speed and strength as it travels across land—thus leaving communities vulnerable to heavy rain, floods, tidal surges, and damaging wind.
A cyclone may deal more destruction than an isolated flash flood. But the key difference between these two situations is that a cyclone can be identified by your weather bureau well before it hits. With modern tools and technologies, meteorologists can now track the location of a cyclone, determine its trajectory, and cite the speed at which it is gaining strength. For ordinary Australians, this literal “calm before the storm” is a crucial period of intervention. During this time, a typical family should note down each public warning, assemble emergency provisions, finalise their emergency plans, and secure their home against additional damage from the cyclone winds.
You can divide your home preparations into three sets of action points: Before, During, and After. Read on below for some detailed tips on how to cushion your family in the event of a cyclone.
Before the Cyclone: Preparing Your Companions and Your Surroundings
- Draft an emergency plan that everyone in your family can participate in. Take down pertinent information about the cyclone’s signal, speed, and direction from the Bureau of Meteorology and from other concerned agencies. When you’ve done this, convey the info in a way that’s easy for every member of the family to understand. Then you can run everyone through an emergency plan, which must take into consideration the needs of your children, any elderly members or PWDs, and family pets. For example, you can implement a buddy system for each member of the family, making sure that one can easily see to the immediate welfare of another. Another practical measure is to enrol at least one person in your family in a thorough first aid training course in Brisbane or in your home community. This is so that you will have a first aid responder in case someone in your family encounters a threat to their health.
- Stock up on emergency supplies and make a list of emergency contacts accessible to everyone. Pack enough medicine, food, clean water, and batteries to last at least 72 hours in case reinforcements don’t arrive within that period. It is also a good idea to place a small battery-operated radio in the kit, as communicating with your mobile devices may be difficult in the wake of a cyclone. Let your family members know where in the house they can locate the kit, as well as a list of emergency contacts you can refer to for additional help.
- Upgrade your home with more resilient fixtures. The best time to oversee much-needed repairs in your home is well before cyclone season. Take the opportunity to check your home’s doors, windows, and roofing for wear and tear, and ask your home improvement contractor to upgrade these with hardier, more wind-resistant materials. Addressing these things in advance lessens the risk of widespread structural damage to your home, steep costs for post-cyclone repair, or worst of all, grievous injury to one of the inhabitants.
- Secure stray objects from both your garden and garage. It’s hard to wrap one’s head around what cyclone winds are capable of, but some are so strong that they can send even heavy objects flying. As such, you should move the following things from your garden and garage to a secure place inside: bicycles, wheelbarrows, wagons, grills, gardening tools, trailers, sports equipment, and the like.
During the Cyclone: How to Weather the Worst
- Unplug everything. Switch off your home’s water, gas, and electricity when the cyclone hits in order to mitigate further hazard from fire, electrocution, gas poisoning, or in-house flooding. This is also the best way to protect your home’s furnishings from being damaged. If you need power, use a portable source like batteries or a power bank.
- Take cover in the safest part of the house. Make sure everyone in the household can converge in a safe, roomy part of the home to wait out the worst. If the wind causes household objects to fall or fly around, duck under a surface that can protect you (such as a mattress or a sturdy wooden table). Stay inside and resist the urge to go out.
- Follow evacuation orders from your community’s disaster response team. If the cyclone threat is significant enough to merit an evacuation, let your local disaster response team take the lead. Follow their instructions on when to leave your home, what to take with you, and what precautions to take when you’re on your way to a safe spot like an evacuation centre. They are trained and knowledgeable in handling the situation, so you must trust them completely with your welfare.
After the Cyclone: Making it Safely Back to Your Home
- Don’t go back home until you’re cleared to do so. Only make the journey back to your house when the authorities give you the go-signal, and don’t stray from the route or the travel medium that they recommend. Stay away from power lines and from areas with thick vegetation, as falling debris and wiring will still be dangerous immediately after the cyclone has passed.
- Check on your friends and family. When you’re safe at home and able to communicate again, get in touch with your extended family, your neighbours, or friends who were affected by the cyclone. There’s no better time to establish a network of support and extend comfort to whoever needs it.
There’s no doubt that the idea of a cyclone is a frightening one. But nothing should be scarier than the prospect of you and your loved ones suffering from damage that was preventable. Increase your odds of recovering from a cyclone and prepare your home now!
*This article is for informational purposes only and does constitute, replace, or qualify as RPL for our first aid training courses.