Fires, flash flooding, severe weather, utility disruptions, explosions, major infrastructure failures, hazardous material spills, heatwaves, influenza pandemics... the list of risk factors that could give rise to an emergency just goes on and on. The fact is, emergencies can happen at any time and present some real challenges for the unprepared.
Important contacts in an emergency
Police, Fire or Ambulance:If an emergency threatens life or property, dial 000 for police, fire and ambulance services to attend. If you have a hearing or speech impairment, dial 106 through your textphone (TTY).Remember, these numbers are only to be called in life-threatening situations.
State Emergency Service (SES): Call the SES on 132 500 if your home suffers storm damage or flood waters threaten your property and you need emergency assistance.
Important: When notifying emergency services of your location, ensure that the information you provide is as precise as possible. Provide your exact street address and the nearest crossroads.
Situations you or your family/household may face in an emergency
In an emergency, you and your family or household may find yourselves in a situation where:
You may be separated when the emergency strikes. For example, children may be at school and parents at work;
Normal channels of communication may be working intermittently or not at all;
Power supplies may be cut;
You may be confronted with dangerous risk factors, such as a fire or flood waters (among others), that immediately threaten your safety;
Information about the status of the emergency may be limited, particularly in the early stages; and
At worst, you or others may be injured or die.
Things you can do to be better prepared
Consider some or all of the following activities and be better prepared when an emergency strikes:
Discuss communication options with members of our household and your neighbours, and decide how you plan to keep in touch in the event of, or after, an emergency. Include a back-up plan, just in case your preferred means of communication fails (for example, if the mobile telephone network is down).
Decide who will collect them and who will check on the welfare of neighbours.
Decide who will be responsible for collecting family members who may be away from home (for example, children at school), and who will check on the welfare of neighbours. Have a back-up plan just in case the nominated person is unable to fulfil this task because of circumstances relating to the emergency.
If you are separated and cannot return home –
agree on a place for family or household members to meet; and
nominate an out-of-town person who household members can contact. Make a list of that person’s contact details (home, mobile and work phone numbers, and e-mail) and provide them to your workplace and to your children’s school. Make sure the person you have nominated knows what you are doing and consents to their personal details being given to the third parties mentioned.
Make arrangements for your pets to ensure they will be safe and have food and water.
Store important documents including Wills, passports, photos, birth and marriage certificates, powers of attorney and insurance policies in a fire and water-proof container or safe deposit box.
Regularly review your insurance policies to ensure they are current and adequate. In other words, ensure you read the fine print and know what you are covered for. Keep copies of your policy documents handy and try to take them with you if you need to evacuate. Consider keeping copies at an alternate secure location.
Make sure you know how and where to turn off electricity, gas and water supplies in your home.
Make a record of your local emergency telephone numbers (State Emergency Service, Council, gas, electricity, water, etc.) and keep them near your phone. These numbers are easily accessed at the front of the local telephone book.
Compile the following items as a kit that can be used in all types of emergencies:
Battery-operated radio (with spare batteries);
Solid torch (with spare batteries);
First Aid Kit and manual, including personal protective equipment such as disposable gloves, face masks and goggles;
A list of prescription medications for all family members (this will make it easier to get replacement prescriptions), as well as tissues, and toiletry and sanitary supplies;
Spare clothing including strong shoes, a broad brimmed hat, leather gloves and sunscreen for each household member;
Sleeping equipment and bedding;
A spare mobile phone (with SIM card), battery and charger;
Strong and waterproof plastic/storage bags (for clothing, valuables, documents and photographs);
Extra set of house keys;
Copies of important family documents (birth certificates, passports and licences);
Contact details for your agreed out-of-town contact;
Books, playing cards or games; and
Credit cards, key cards and cash.
If you have to remain in your home for several days during or following an emergency, and power, water or gas are not available, you should try to have the following at hand:
Bottled water and enough easily prepared packaged food to last for at least three days (rotate supplies to prevent spoilage);
Fire blanket or fire extinguisher (seek CFA advice); and
Barbecue or portable stove with fuel.
While many emergencies will extend only over a few days, some will last longer. The Australian Food and Grocery Council recommends planning for a 14 day stay at home by building and rotating food items in your pantry. Check out their recommended emergency pantry planning list. [Edit note: insert link to http://www.afgc.org.au/pantrylist.html] Each household is different, so customise the list to suit your needs.