How to prepare for a storm

This article is intended as a general guide only. You should consult your state emergency services for further information. 

Storms occur Australia-wide and are notorious for causing severe damage to homes and their contents, along with business interruption and fatalities. It’s essential to prepare before a storm strikes and safeguard your home from lightning, heavy rain, hail and strong winds. Take these precautions to protect your family and reduce the risk to your assets.

Storm facts

The most powerful storms usually occur from September to March. These severe weather events can produce heavy rain, flash flooding, thunder, lightning, strong winds of over 90km/h, hailstones of at least 2cm in diameter, and cyclones.

Storms that hit our northern regions have different characteristics to those typical in central and southern Australia. For example, excessive lightning is common in the tropics; southern areas often experience huge downpours and flash flooding, while low-lying coastal areas are prone to hailstorms.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) reports the storm that hit Sydney’s eastern suburbs in April, 1999 remains Australia’s most costly natural disaster, in terms of insurance claims that followed. The BOM has estimated that $1.5 billion in damages were caused within an hour.

Storm safety plan

All state-based emergency services advise having a safety plan that your family can act upon, as soon as a severe storm warning is issued. The NSW State Emergency Service provides a useful online tool for tailoring a storm safety plan for your household.

Storm preparation checklist

The following provides helpful storm preparation tips:

  • Pack a storm emergency kit containing key phone numbers, medications, torch, spare batteries, portable radio, first-aid kit, food supplies, blankets, clothing, important documents and plastic bags.
  • Monitor radio or the internet for local weather warnings and updates.
  • Close all doors, windows, blinds and curtains.
  • Designate the room in which your family will take shelter – a small room or stairwell on the lowest floor of your home is recommended.
  • Practice your evacuation procedure and choose a meeting place if you become separated.
  • Make sure your car is filled with fuel and parked under cover. If that’s not possible, avoid parking near drains, under trees or in low-lying areas. Cover vehicles with tarpaulins or blankets.
  • Keep children calm and make sure animals are indoors or secured under shelter
  • Secure any loose outdoor items such as garden furniture or bins.
  • Check your roof, windows and doors are firmly secured.
  • Have rope, hammer, nails, timber and plastic sheeting on-hand for emergency repairs.
  • Unplug electrical appliances and aerials and switch them off at the circuit board.

If your area is prone to particular storms, the following tips may help reduce risk:

Lightning strikes

  • Use adequate surge protection outlets year-round.
  • Trim rotting or overhanging tree branches (with council permission), to reduce the risk of them falling on your home. Dispose of loose branches to prevent a fire.
  • If your home sits in an exposed location, consider installing a lightning protection system and emergency back-up power supply source such as a diesel generator.

Strong winds

  • Perform regular maintenance on tile or sheet cladding to avoid parts of your roof lifting off.
  • Fit windows and skylights with security mesh or durable insect screens along with storm shutters if necessary.
  • Plant trees to form a windbreak on rural properties, ensuring trees are a safe distance from your home.

Heavy rain and hail

  • Clean guttering of leaves and install a gutter guard if trees overhang your roof.
  • Check downpipes are not blocked or rusted and can adequately drain water in a downpour.
  • Look for light shining through from the inside of the roof space, which may indicate the water-protection layer (sarking) needs repairing.
  • Move pot plants away from drainage grates and keep drains clear of debris.

State by state storm information

The Bureau of Meteorology issues severe thunderstorm warnings to media outlets, at www.bom.gov.au or call 1900 926 113 (nationally). For further help on how to cope with storms visit http://stormsafe.com.au or these government advisory sites:

NSW: https://www.ses.nsw.gov.au/
ACT: http://esa.act.gov.au/community-information/storms-and-floods/
QLD: https://getready.qld.gov.au/natural-disasters/storms/
VIC: https://www.ses.vic.gov.au/get-ready/stormsafe
SA: http://www.ses.sa.gov.au/site/community_safety/stormsafe.jsp
TAS: http://www.ses.tas.gov.au/h/em/awareness/storm
WA: http://www.dfes.wa.gov.au/safetyinformation/storm/Pages/prepareforastorm.aspx
NT: http://www.pfes.nt.gov.au/Emergency-Service/Public-safety-advice/Severe-storms.aspx

Regardless of whether you own or rent, up-to-date home and contents insurance that covers weather events common in your area is essential. In the event you need to make a claim, don’t worry about paperwork. All we need is your name and phone number.