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As we head into natural disaster season, it’s time to prepare for extreme weather.


Risk mitigation: preparing for disaster season


Australia is prone to natural disasters. According to statistics quoted by DFAT, the Asia Pacific region is the most disaster-prone region in the world. A person living in the region is almost twice as likely to be affected by a disaster as a person living in Africa, almost six times as likely compared with Latin America and the Caribbean, and 30 times more likely than a person living in North America or Europe.


While the risk of a natural catastrophe is present year-round in Australia, the six months from November to April are the declared “disaster season”. Summer and Autumn see the risks of bushfires in Australia’s south climb, while the risk of cyclone increases in the north, and of storms across the continent.


This season the risks of cyclones and flooding are heightened as La Niña is set to bring wet weather. The Bureau of Meteorology issued a severe weather warning for October to April noting an increased risk of flooding and tropical cyclones. Following the horror of last season’s “Black Summer”, wetter-than-average conditions are likely to result in an average risk of bushfire along the east coast, while dry conditions in the south-west could see an increase in fire weather days.


On average, natural disasters cost Australians over $13 billion each year. The four declared natural catastrophes during the last disaster season resulted in more than $5.19 billion in insurance claims. To reduce the risk, property and business owners need to implement mitigation strategies:


Prepare the property for bad weather

  • Know the bushfire/cyclone/storm/flood risks in the area.
  • Speak with your local authority and emergency services about your community’s emergency plans, warning signals, evacuation routes and locations of emergency shelters.
  • Inspect the property and eliminate any potential hazards – your state/territory emergency service will have a comprehensive checklist of what should be done such as clearing out gutters, checking the condition of the roof, pruning overhanging trees, removing excess ground fuel, sealing windows, securing loose objects etc.
  • Regularly check safety devices on the property, such as smoke alarms, sprinkler systems and fire extinguishers.
  • Know how to disconnect the property’s gas, water and electricity.
  • Ensure there is clear access into and out of properties in the event of an emergency. 


Have emergency plans

  • Disaster plan – include the location of a safe place to go and also where to stay if the property is damaged and you can’t return; ensure everyone at the property knows what to do if there’s an emergency; compile a comprehensive contact list including emergency services, family/friends, medical services and vet; the plan should also address various post-disaster scenarios.
  • Communication plan – all family members/employees might not be in the same place when disaster strikes and you need to discuss how each will get to the safe place and contact one another.
  • Evacuation plan – ensure everyone at the property knows the plan including how to leave quickly; map all escape routes in case the preferred route is not passable; determine what to take (treasured possessions, pets, important documents); create a checklist of things to do at the property before leaving (disconnect services, turn on the sprinklers); prepare an emergency kit with essentials.
  • For business, plans should include business continuity strategies that consider operations, supply chains, revenue streams, business processes, assets, human resources, business partners, supplies and equipment, data back-up, key personnel etc.


Adequately insure the property


Act early to ensure the property is protected against weather risks such as fire, flood, cyclone and storm. Once a weather event is imminent, it is too late to take out insurance cover or update an existing policy.


Property and business owners should check that their insurance is adequate to cover any potential losses. Talk to your EBM Account Manager to:

  • ensure risks have been fully assessed
  • understand what contingencies are covered
  • investigate whether any changes are needed to existing policies, e.g. ensuring sums insured reflect current replacement costs or whether additional covers are required e.g. property cover for boats, cars, plant and equipment, business interruption insurance, loss of income protection, or liability cover.


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