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Now is the time to get disaster-ready

2 October 2019

Protecting the ones you love most

Dear colleagues, 

I’m really pleased to have a ‘blog takeover’ moment and to use it as an opportunity to invite you all to get prepared for emergencies. As you may know, last week we did a lot of media about the importance of being prepared, including radio, TV, print and the excellent opinion piece from Andrew Coghlan that follows below. We’ve been expanding the work we do to help households and communities to prepare over recent years and have set ourselves an important target of having 3 million Australians equipped. 

While almost 80% of people recently surveyed for Red Cross understood the importance of being prepared, sadly a very small number actually take steps. Why is this? Partly because people don’t think it’s going to happen to them, partly because they don’t know what to do. Our experience tells us most people impacted by emergencies didn’t think it would happen to them - we hear this from people every time we respond to a disaster. 

The good news is there are some simple steps you can take that will make a big difference in the event an emergency does happen (and will benefit you in other ways). Take a few moments to download the Get Prepared app (developed with IAG) or to use the RediPlan materials available on the website and encourage your families, friends and neighbours to do the same. There’s no time like the present! 

Blog takeover - Now is the time to get disaster-ready

New data reveals most Australians understand the value of preparing for a disaster. Taking action is where the challenge lies. As we live through climate change, all Australians need to make a big shift to be ready for more intense and frequent emergencies, faster than most might like.

It’s only September and we have seen fires in drought-ravaged Queensland and New South Wales. There are reports that parts of rural NSW could run out of water in coming months if the rains don’t come.

Earlier this year, unprecedented fires burnt across much of Tasmania, monsoonal rains flooded Townsville and destructive cyclones battered communities in the Northern Territory and WA. The mercury soared bringing record heatwaves in South Australia, a silent killer. Ready or not, lives of the elderly, very young children, people living alone and those with pre-existing medical conditions are all too often at serious risk.

The latest Red Cross preparedness survey shows that we must take much firmer action to be ready for emergencies on our doorstep. Four out of five people think it’s important to get prepared, a slight increase since last year.

Australians are concerned about the most vulnerable in our communities. Nearly two-thirds of us believe heatwaves have the most constant impact on the elderly or those sleeping rough. These worries cut across all ages: almost two-thirds of parents with children under 18 are concerned about how their kids will cope with an unpredictable future of climate change and extreme weather emergencies.

The good news is parents are leading the way and are among the best prepared in the country. Households with kids under 19 are significantly more likely to have written an emergency plan or put an emergency kit together. Women are also at the forefront: those aged 18-34 are significantly more likely to have written an emergency plan.

Women over 55 are much more likely to believe in the value of being prepared and trust that their local communities would help each other out.

The bad news is that most Australians still need to take action and prepare. Our survey showed only one in five has identified someone local who could help in an emergency. Just under a third have stored important documents in a safe place.

Hats off to people living in regional Australia, who are more aware, engaged and prepared. Around a quarter have put an emergency kit together and nearly two out of five have stored important documents.

With the Bureau of Meteorology predicting above average temperatures, below average rainfall, and drought taking hold of much of the country, now is the time to prepare for whatever comes our way. Our experience matches evidence that being well prepared helps people recover faster and better.

We have been working with emergency services and governments as they invest much more in helping communities to be better prepared. There has been an increase in investment to prepare communities but we still have a long way to go. Our emergency services volunteers hear it non-stop on the front lines. “I said to my husband, this cyclone will take two minutes, but it’s going to take years to get life back on track.”

Whether we’re in the city or the country, preparing is well within our reach and it’s not hard to do. It is about knowing the risks we face, storing important documents, such as birth certificates, and updating your insurance. It’s also about planning to help each other. Having a conversation with your partner, best friend, neighbour and children. Deciding where to meet if mobile phone towers go down.

It’s having critical medication ready to go, a plan for pets and capacity to pack quickly. It’s also about protecting priceless sentimental belongings.

Once an emergency subsides, precious photos or family keepsakes will play on your mind if you don’t protect them now. We can’t stop emergencies happening, but we can reduce how much they affect us. Take action now to prepare and to protect those we love.

That's all for this week. If you haven't already, download the Get Prepared app and complete the three simple steps to make you and your loved ones safer, and protect the things that matter most to you.

Have a great week ahead.