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Natural disasters

12-minute read

If you need urgent help from police, fire or ambulance services, call triple zero (000). For emergency help during any other natural disaster such as floods, storms and tsunamis, contact your State Emergency Service (SES) on 132 500.

Key facts

  • Natural disasters include events such as bushfires, floods, storms and earthquakes.
  • If you need help in a natural disaster call triple zero (000) or the State Emergency Services (SES) on 132 500.
  • Being ready and informed is the best way to prepare for a natural disaster.
  • Common feelings when coping with a natural disaster are shock, anger and sadness.
  • After a natural disaster, you may be eligible for assistance from the government.

What is a natural disaster?

Natural disasters in Australia can include:

Natural disasters can be tough on people, their communities and even lead to loss of life. Here are some tips for getting ready and how to cope during and after extreme weather events.

How can I prepare for a natural disaster?

Emergencies can happen at any time without warning. The Australian Red Cross has an emergency REDiPlan, which you can download and fill out, or download their Get Prepared app. It outlines 4 steps to prepare your household for an emergency such as a natural disaster:

  • Step 1: Get in the know— Know the dangers you are likely to face in your area and how to manage your stress. Find out who can help and know where to get information in an emergency. The official emergency broadcaster is the ABC. You can find your radio frequency at ABC Local Radio.
  • Step 2: Get connected— Decide on a meeting place with all members of your household, including children, and connect with people in your community who could help you in an emergency. Write a list of phone numbers of people you can talk to and who can help you in an emergency, and keep it handy.
  • Step 3: Get organised— Get or update your insurance, store important documents somewhere safe, and keep copies in a safe place other than your home. Plan what to do with pets or livestock.
  • Step 4: Get packing— Before an emergency or natural disaster think about and pack things that you might need to help you get through the first difficult days outside of home. The Red Cross suggests you should pack:
    • important documents such as passports, wills, land titles, mortgage or insurance papers
    • food, water and some cash
    • warm, waterproof clothing and comfortable shoes
    • torch and batteries
    • radio and batteries, mobile phone and device chargers
    • first aid kit, your medicines and prescriptions
    • pet essentials
Understand your level of bushfire risk so you can prepare your property and protect your health.
Learn about some of the health risks and hazards that can occur during floods and cyclones.

How do I find weather and disaster alerts?

You can check the Australian Bureau of Meteorology website for weather warnings.

Listen to your radio or watch TV for live updates. You might also hear the Standard Emergency Warning Signal (SEWS), a unique siren that plays on the radio or television before an important safety message.

You may receive emergency alerts on your phone. Emergency Alert is the government-funded national telephone-based warning system that makes calls to landlines and texts to mobile phones. You do not need to register to receive these warnings.

Other local information and advice

It is important to listen to your local government or council for information about natural disasters specific to your location. Information, procedures, evacuation plans and advice may change, and be specific to where you live. You can also contact your state or territory's local road agency to know where there are road closures in your area.

Some local councils offer an evacuation register of people who may need help to get to safety in a natural disaster. Contact your local council to see if they offer this service.

How can I emotionally prepare for a natural disaster?

Getting emotionally ready for natural disasters is important. It can help you feel more confident and in control. This helps you make better emergency plans. It can also help lower your stress and longer term mental health problems that may happen from the trauma of being in a natural disaster.

The Australian Psychological Society outlines 4 steps to being psychologically prepared, using the acronym ‘AIME’ (for Anticipate. Identify. Manage. Engage):

  • Anticipate that you will feel worried or anxious and remember these are normal responses to a possible life-threatening situation.
  • Identify the exact physical feelings associated with anxiety and whether you are having any scary thoughts that are adding to the fear.
  • Manage your responses using controlled breathing and self-talk to stay as calm as possible so you can focus on the practical tasks that need your attention.
  • Engage with at least one person you trust to help you feel connected, more supported and less alone.

Read about preparing children for a natural disaster on Pregnancy, Birth and Baby’s website.

How can I cope during a natural disaster?

Being ready and knowing what to expect can help you cope during a natural disaster. It is important to stay safe, connected and informed, and follow your emergency plan.

Call triple zero (000) in life-threatening emergencies and for bushfires. If calling triple zero (000) does not work on your mobile phone, try 112. For emergency help during any other natural disaster such as a flood, storm or tsunami, contact your State Emergency Service (SES) on 132 500.

If you feel your home is at risk, or you have been told to leave, you should make your way to an emergency evacuation centre. Check your local council's website or social media pages if you do not know where they are.

Register yourself as 'safe' or locate family or friends in a disaster-affected area, at the Red Cross website, Register.Find.Reunite.

How can I cope after a natural disaster?

When it is all over, the natural disaster may still affect you emotionally. Common feelings include shock, anger, helplessness, sadness and fear. This could be for the safety of family and friends, or because you are worried that something similar happening again.

It is also normal to feel shame for feeling helpless, emotional and needing others; or for not having reacted as you might have wished.

These are all normal feelings. Talk about it and seek support from friends, family and the community, which can help a lot.

Beyond Blue and Lifeline have advice for people dealing with the emotional effects of a natural disaster. Also, talk to your doctor, who has access to support that could help you after a disaster.

Am I eligible for financial help?

You may be eligible for help with your finances.

Check your insurance policy, or call your insurer to find out what’s covered.

The Australian Government Disaster Assist website provides information about financial assistance following a natural disaster (including the Disaster Recovery Payment).

You may be eligible for a 'crisis payment' if you have not received a Disaster Recovery Payment. Visit Services Australia for more information.

Resources and support

You can find more resources and support at:

State emergency services

Resources and support in other languages

Do you prefer another language to English? There are factsheets that also offer translated information:

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: October 2023

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