We never know what the next summer holds — whether it’s the wet season or the dry. Climate change means we’re going to have longer, hotter summers, and more and more extreme weather.
Our future holds more floods, more bushfires, more severe storms and more heatwaves — and the only way we’re all going to get through this is if we work together and help each other.
This information helps you, your families and your neighbourhood prepare for natural disasters and emergencies — and if you’d like to help out more, join our emergency response team.
Make a plan
Emergencies happen suddenly and it’s important to plan ahead so you know what to do when the time comes.
Involve your whole family — and your neighbours if you can — and you should always plan for the worst.
- Is my home or business likely to be affected? Consider the landscape around your home or business. Are you on a flood plain? Are you near bushland? Are there any large trees with branches overhanging your home, car or powerlines? You can check flood or fire risk maps to see at a glance.
- How can I secure my home? Pruning large overhanging branches, having tarps and guide ropes on hand and knowing how to use sandbags are all handy skills. You should also consider who might be able to secure your home if you are away or at work and can’t get back safely.
- Where will you go if you have to evacuate? Whether it’s a family member’s or friend’s house or a central evacuation centre, make a note of where you can get to safely and quickly during an emergency. Many roads can be blocked or unsafe to drive on, especially through bushland or in low-lying flood-prone areas, so consider alternative routes.
- What arrangements can you make for pets? RSPCA has a guide on preparing your pet for an emergency and suggest making sure you include pet food and medication in your emergency kits, have at least two weeks of pet supplies at home and making sure your pets are microchipped and have collar tags with current contact details.
- How does my plan change with different kinds of emergencies? You might need different preventative measures or evacuation plans for floods and fires. Make sure you have backup plans that take different circumstances into account.
- What do we need to take with us? Make a list of your most important things to pack when you need to leave quickly. You can’t take everything, so pack your emergency kits and a few changes of clothes in your car and see how much space is left. Think about what your most cherished valuables and mementos are. Most of your possessions can be replaced — so prioritise the ones that can’t.
- What does my home and car insurance cover? Some insurance policies have exclusions and exceptions for natural disasters like bushfires and floods. Check your policies and assess whether it is appropriate for your home’s bushfire and flood risk.
- Do you or your friends and family have a disability? Queenslanders with a Disability Network have put together this great emergency preparedness resource that they co-designed with people with a disability
- Do I have all my key contacts saved? Make sure you get up-to-date contact details saved in your phone for your family, friends, neighbours and health network — especially your emergency contacts. It’s good to have a written down copy of key contacts in case of blackouts or losing your phone.
The Queensland Government has a great emergency plan template on their Get Ready website — and you can download factsheets in languages other than English to help family members understand how to plan for an emergency.
Build an emergency kit
Having emergency kits are important parts of planning for an emergency.
Try to build two different emergency kits — one for your home to help you shelter safely in place, and one for your car that you can quickly pack in the event you have to evacuate.
Your home kit, sometimes known as a stay bag, should help you be safe for a few days on your own in the event of being isolated and without internet, electricity or safe tap water. This should include non-perishable food, sealed water containers, a first aid kit and important medicine, and emergency items like torches, radios, spare batteries and fully-charged portable power banks. Depending on whether you’re flood or fire prone, you might need more specialist kit like sandbags or fire extinguishers.
Your car kit, sometimes known as a go bag, should include your most important possessions that you can quickly pack in your car in the event of an emergency. You can pre-pack some of it, but most you’ll need to pack quickly and go — so making a list is important. A car kit might include a few days’ clothes, space medicine and health aids, and device chargers, as well as a list of valuables, irreplaceable mementoes, personal identification documents, and must-haves like laptops and phones.
To help you get an idea of what you might need in your emergency kits, check out Get Ready’s interactive planner.
Sign up for warnings
During the emergency, waiting for social media or the news to tell you what’s happening can sometimes be too late.
The best place to get reliable and timely information about emergencies is to sign up to official emergency alerts.
- The Bureau of Meteorology has an app for smartphones and you can also check their website for current alerts.
- The Queensland Fire and Emergency Services has a feed of all bushfires and warnings across Queensland on their website.
- Brisbane City Council has SMS and landline alerts to notify you of storms or severe weather at up to three addresses
- ABC Radio Brisbane is the emergency radio station for our area and has the most up-to-date information in a crisis. You can listen via the ABC Listen app and it’s good to have a battery-powered radio in your emergency kit.
A changing climate means once-in-a-lifetime floods are now a regular occurrence in all our lives.
Floods are unpredictable and neighbourhoods spared floods in previous seasons won’t always be so fortunate. Everyone in Brisbane — especially if you live near a creek, wetland or in a low-lying area — needs to be alive to the risk of flooding near their homes.
There’s no way to completely protect your homes from potential damage. But there are steps you can take to reduce the impact of floods.
- Check your flood risk using the Brisbane City Council’s flood awareness map.
- Clean out potential blockages by cleaning up your yard and disposing of timber, loose bricks or other large objects that might get caught in flood water, and ensuring your roof drains, downpipes and stormwater drains flow cleanly. If you live in a freestanding house, make sure you check your overflow relief gully too.
- Collect sandbags either pre-filled and for free from Council’s depots or you can buy your own from a hardware store.
- Make structural changes to improve your flood resilience like raising your home, building water direction barriers, or wet-proofing your home.
Bushfires and smoke
While most of our inner city suburbs are far away from bushfires, there’s still parks and bushland near us that are at risk as summers get hotter and drier — and smoke can travel from hundreds of kilometres away and affects us all.
When there are bushfires near Brisbane, here’s some things you should do:
- Check your bushfire risk using the Queensland Fire and Emergency Service’s postcode checker. Even an inner city electorate like Brisbane has bushland that is vulnerable to bushfires — especially if you live next to the parks along Breakfast Creek and Kedron Brook. If you can, prepare by tidying your backyard and gutters to remove excess foliage or undergrowth.
- Avoid outdoor physical activities like running or cycling. Bushfires come with smoke and heat, which makes strenuous physical activity more difficult and dangerous. Working out also lets more fine smoke particulates deeper into your lungs.
- Switch air conditioners to recycle to make sure smoke doesn’t get blown into your home or car.
- Wear a P2 mask when outside. In bushfire conditions, surgical or cloth facemasks won’t filter smoke or protect you against fine particles. Instead you’ll need a P2 mask, which are available from most hardware stores. Read more about using a mask during smoke events here.
With the effects of climate change getting worse, meteorologists are saying it's likely we’ll have hotter and hotter summers, putting us at risk of extreme heat events.
We need to take heatwaves seriously. Heatwaves pose the biggest threat of any natural disaster in Australia, so it's really important to ensure that you are prepared.
The most important thing is to stay cool and hydrated, especially at night and when you are sleeping.
Here are some things you can do to help prepare for a heatwave:
- Check in on neighbours or family members and make sure you swap current contact details. Older people, disabled people or people living alone, are all more vulnerable to the impacts of heatwaves — and it's up to all of us to make sure everyone in our community stays safe.
- Find somewhere cool to rest like a local library or shopping centre. With the cost of living skyrocketing, it's not affordable to run air conditioning during the hottest parts of the day. Libraries and university campuses are great places to rest for free, while cinemas, shopping centres and public pools can be cost effective options too. If you live near Albion, feel free to drop into my office for a rest and a cuppa.
- Ventilate your house by having a fan going to move air around or opening windows where the sun isn’t shining directly inside. If you have an air conditioner on, you don’t want to open your windows though. You should also close the blinds or curtains on the windows facing the sun.
- Stay hydrated. You need to drink at least two litres of water a day — that’s eight cups of water — even when you don’t feel thirsty. Drinking coffee or alcohol can dehydrate you so make sure you drink plain water as well.
Join our emergency response volunteers
During any emergency, we’re strongest together. We need to organise and prepare to help everyone in our community during a natural disaster. Having a team of volunteers willing to help out will make all the difference when the time comes.
Sign up to my North Brisbane emergency response team to help your neighbours and community during an emergency — and in the long and difficult clean up.
Whether it’s delivering food, filling sandbags or sweeping out flood mud, our emergency response team is there to help.