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Everyone needs good neighbours in an emergency

How neighbours really can be your best friends during any traumatic time in your life.

Dan back home with his kids, Ruby and Matthew. Photo: Australian Red Cross/Dilini Perera

The electricity was out, it was dark and Dan was on a couch - propped on top of his kitchen bench. His two dogs and a cat beside him, he listened as the drains gurgled and watched water seep into his backyard.

Dan was living through extreme weather. Rainfall levels were at the highest in 120 years for Townsville, Queensland. The record-breaking rain, triggered major flooding. Five people died in the floods and over 2,000 homes were damaged – Dan’s included. 

On the day of the floods, his children Matthew and Ruby safe with their mum out of town, Dan prepared for the worst. 

“I was probably more fortunate being that I was in the military. I had a Plan B.”.

We can’t stop disasters or emergencies from happening but what Dan’s training had helped him understand is we can reduce how much they affect us by being prepared.

There are four key steps in preparing for any emergency, large or small.

Neighbourhood hero

What no one anticipated was the magnitude of the disaster unfolding outside. What Dan hadn’t anticipated is that night he would become a hero.

As the night got later and the rain kept falling, the State Emergency Service started evacuating people.

Seeing his neighbours struggling, Dan rushed into action. He helped carry their children to the evacuation assembly spot.

And he didn’t stop there. Over the next three hours, Dan helped to evacuate more than 25 people. He loaded them onto boats and ferried them across the floodwaters, reassuring those who were frightened. Not once getting in the boat himself.

Dan’s story illustrates what we see in many emergency situations. The person most likely to help you survive a disaster will often be a neighbour or passer-by.  By building a support network of people in your community you can help each other get by during, and after, an emergency. 

Dan with Red Cross recovery officer Sam Savage Photo: Australian Red Cross/Dilini Perera

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen how strong community connections help people get through. Local community networks, neighbours and friends looking out for and supporting each other during a tough time.

While emergency services do all they can to help, the person most responsible for your wellbeing before, during and after an emergency is you. And the people most likely to help are those you know. 

The good news is, there are things you can do now to help you and your community be prepared and cope better should an emergency happen. 

The ABC and Red Cross have co-created a Ready Together Toolkit to help you and your community get ready for extreme weather.