In Australia, we’re no stranger to extreme weather events, or emergency situations. From bushfires to floodwaters, there are a variety of situations that can put you and your home at risk.
That’s why having a home emergency plan prepared is so important. To help you form yours, we’ll discuss the most essential things to consider, and some specific advice for bushfire, house fire, and floodwater situations.
What to include in your plan
Across Australia, there are a variety of government resources and tools for plan development. For example, the Queensland Government has an interactive tool to build out a personal guide, covering a variety of things to consider. The Victorian SES has prepped a lengthy guide on what you should consider in making a plan, whereas the NSW SES offers a quick checklist of what to remember in an emergency situation.
Having considered all available advice from the government, there are some common trends as to what you should include in your plan:
Your plan before an emergency
There is plenty you can do before an emergency. Specifically, you can:
- Organise meeting points – Arrange a location for everyone at home to meet. If everyone heads for the same place, it can make evacuation an even faster process.
- Have a ready-to-go emergency kit – Ideally, have an individual item you can grab if an emergency needs it. Usually, this will be some essentials, including any essential medications, important documents (like passports and wills), and anything else you’ll need.
- Take time, and think of your unique circumstance – What happens to the pets if no one is home? Are there neighbours that could help assist if you have a disability? Are there potential issues with you reaching exits in a hurry? Take the time to genuinely think about your situation, and create solutions in advance for as many issues as you can.
Your plan when an emergency arises
- Listen for any government advice – If an emergency situation seems feasible, make sure you listen out for alerts and advice. Have your phone on loud and charged, and ideally, keep broadcast media on (such as TV or radio). As soon as a public announcement is made, you should hear about it.
- Make the best decision for you – Sometimes, announcements can’t be made in time, such as with flash flooding. If you reasonably suspect that an emergency might be on its way, there is no need to wait for an evacuation notice.
- Look after you and those immediately around you first – Usually, evacuating will be the best option. If this is the case, help you and those with you escape the property, and do not go back in.
- Know who to call for help – Depending on what emergency you’re faced with, the right person to call will vary. For immediately life-threatening events, 000 (or 112 on mobile) is always the smartest option. For home emergencies or flood rescue, the SES can be reached on 132 500.
How to prepare a home fire escape plan
Fire can engulf a home faster than you’d expect. That’s why having a clear plan is essential.
- Before there is ever an emergency, decide on your escape paths, and meeting points. You can use the National Fire Protection Association’s fire escape grid to draw a floor plan of your home, and mark the exits you’ll use. Fire and Rescue NSW recommends you practise your escape plan at least twice a year.
- In the event of a fire, if you have the ability to safely close doors around the home, it can slow the spread of the fire.
- Stay low – crawl along the floors to the exit. If your clothes catch alight, stop, drop to the floor, cover and roll until the flames are extinguished.
- Go straight to the designated meeting point. Do not return to the house! In short, stay low, get out and stay out.
- Call 000 (or if that isn’t available, 112 on mobile).
Related article: Home fire safety tips
How to prepare a flood escape plan
Floods present quite unique challenges, when compared to fires. Typically, staying high becomes your main objective, rather than keeping low. Naturally, there are some key differences when preparing an escape plan.
- Again, knowing your escape paths ahead of time can be advantageous. Try and identify the higher paths out of the property, so your roads/routes are less likely to become submerged.
- If the threat of a flood appears heightened, the SES or local council can usually offer you sandbags, to help protect your home.
- Research what kinds of floods you’re likely to face. If a local river can warn you, you might have more time to respond. If not, you might need to prepare for heavy rain to trigger flash flooding.
- Know what signs mean you should evacuate. That might be a certain height of rising water, certain levels of rain, or potentially access to local roads.
- Always listen for government alerts and warnings, including when evacuations need to be made. These will usually be texted to local residents, and broadcast on radio and free-to-air TV.
How to prepare a bushfire escape plan
Bushfires have similar traits to both house fires, and floods. There is an environmental element to them, meaning that there’s a chance that you’ll receive warning before danger strikes. However, bushfires can also be the most unforgiving, and are often the fastest to destroy properties. That’s why having a viable escape plan is essential.
- Plan together with the family, and make sure everyone knows the process. Where will you go? What will you grab? How quickly do you need to move?
- Have a survival kit ready, ideally in a single bag you can grab in the event a fire front is on its way.
- Stay informed, by listening to local media and authorities. If you are given advice from the experts, it’s always smartest to listen, and act quickly.
- Bushfires can be incredibly unpredictable, and travel faster than you’d expect. If there are signs that a bushfire could at all come near your property, consider evacuating.
Related article: Bushfire preparation checklist
Check your home insurance
Security bars can be impenetrable, trapping people in burning homes.
Ensure they have a quick-release system. The same goes for doors and windows.
If you have a disabled person living in your home, consider how they would be evacuated in an emergency.
Do any household members rely on prescription drugs or healthcare equipment that requires power?
If a door handle is hot to the touch — use the back of your hand to test it — it’s likely there’s a fire on the other side of the door. Use an alternative escape route.
Check your home insurance
Budget Direct home and/or contents insurance includes cover for storm and rainwater, fire (including bushfires), earthquakes and tsunamis. But it’s also worth remembering that most insurers won’t cover you for bushfire, storm, storm surge, flood or tsunami in the first 72 hours of your policy.
If you’re a Budget Direct customer, you can check your insurance certificate for exactly what events you’re covered for.