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Disaster season has begun

Bushfire in the Blue Mountains - are you ready for the Australian disaster season?

Monday November 3, 2014

Red Cross volunteers registering evacuees during the 2013 Blue Mountains bushfires.

We're urging all Australians to make sure they're prepared for a disaster - in the wake of the weekend's Katoomba bushfire which saw Red Cross volunteers rushing to support 90 residents evacuated from their homes.

On Saturday night our volunteers were on hand to support the residents who spent several hours sheltering in an evacuation centre at the Katoomba RSL club in the Blue Mountains. It was the first significant incident so far this disaster season.

Forecasters are predicting similar weather to last summer across Australia, with dry conditions, severe heat waves and bushfires the main risks. A late season El Nino is possible.

"Being prepared for a disaster of any kind can save lives," says Australian Red Cross' NSW Manager Emergency Services Diana Bernardi. "People who have prepared for a disaster often have more resilience and that can help them recover faster, both financially and emotionally.

"Getting prepared involves four simple steps - it's about knowing the risks in your area, making a plan, getting an emergency kit and knowing your neighbours. The last step is crucial, it gives you an instant support network, and we find when people know others in their community they often cope better in the long term."

The weekend incident comes as communities in the Blue Mountains mark the one year anniversary of the devastating bushfires - the worst in almost a decade - that swept across parts of the region last October, destroying more than 200 homes.

One year on from those bushfires, Red Cross continues to work with the community, helping people to recover. Recovery is a long and difficult process, and for some people it can take years, says Ms Bernardi.

"Disaster can strike at anytime, and every year all over Australia disasters affect thousands of people. Lives are lost, people are injured and homes, property, businesses and communities suffer devastating damage." It's vital people plan and think about what they would do in a disaster.

Red Cross volunteers will be visiting residents in affected communities over three days this month (8, 9 and 12 November), checking how people are coping, finding out their concerns and linking them with support services.

Learn how you can support our vital disaster relief and recovery work.