Australia is a country that is prone to natural disasters due to its varied geography and climate. It is important for residents to be prepared for these events in order to minimise the potential damage and loss of life. But businesses also need to understand how they can prepare and respond to natural, disruptive events.
Here are the top 5 natural disasters that residents and businesses of Australia should prepare for each year, and bonus tips on how and how you can add these into your emergency management and response.
1 – Cyclones
Australia’s tropical regions, including the Northern Territory and Queensland, are particularly vulnerable to cyclones. These severe storms can cause significant damage to infrastructure and homes, and can also result in flooding and landslides. In 2011, Cyclone Yasi struck the coast of Queensland and caused around $1.4 billion in damages.
How businesses can prepare and respond
Cyclones are a major threat to businesses in Australia’s tropical regions, as they can cause significant damage to infrastructure and interrupt operations for extended periods, bringing floods, power outages and loss of life. To prepare for and respond to cyclones, businesses should take the following steps:
- Develop a Business Continuity Plan (BCP): A BCP is a document that outlines how a business will continue operations in the event of a disaster, such as a cyclone. It should include information on how to secure the business premises, how to protect employees and customers, and how to continue operations in the aftermath of a disaster.
- Conduct a Risk Assessment: Identify and evaluate the potential impact of a cyclone on your business. Understand which assets are critical and need protection, assess the vulnerability of the business site and identify potential hazards. This will help the business to prioritise their preparedness efforts.
- Secure the Premises: This includes securing or removing loose objects, such as signage or outdoor furniture, that could be propelled by strong winds. It is also important to prepare the building for high winds by securing windows and doors, as well as installing shutters or other protective coverings.
- Communicate with employees and customers: Share information about the cyclone and the measures that the business is taking to prepare for and respond to it. Create an emergency contact list for employees, customers and suppliers, in case of an event. This can include contact numbers, social media handles, and email addresses.
- Have an Emergency Supply Kit: Have a kit ready with items such as non-perishable food, water, a first aid kit, flashlights, and batteries in case power is lost.
- Test the Plan: It is important to test the Business Continuity Plan to ensure that it is effective and that all employees understand their roles and responsibilities in the event of a disaster.
By taking these steps, businesses can reduce the potential damage caused by a cyclone and ensure that they are able to continue operations as quickly as possible in the aftermath of the disaster. It’s always best to be over-prepared for such disasters and have a plan in place.
2 – Bushfires
Bushfires are a common occurrence in Australia, particularly during the summer months. These fires can be caused by a combination of factors, including high temperatures, low humidity, and strong winds. In 2019-2020, the bushfire crisis caused more than 100 deaths and destroyed over 18.6 million hectares of land, considered as one of the worst bushfires in Australia’s history.
One example of an Australian business that successfully got through a bushfire is the Southern Highland Wines, located in New South Wales. In 2019-2020, bushfire crisis caused damages and loss to many businesses in the area. However, Southern Highland Wines was able to quickly and effectively respond to the crisis and minimise the damage to their operations.
Southern Highland Wines had a detailed bushfire management plan in place that helped to protect their property, staff, and wine-making equipment during the fires. They shut down power and gas supplies and put out all fires on the property. The team also prepared an emergency plan for employees, including evacuation routes and designated safe locations. Additionally, they had emergency kits and supplies ready, including water, food, and first aid kits.
The company also took steps to protect their vineyards and wine-making equipment. They used water from their dams to create fire breaks, and worked closely with local firefighting teams to ensure that the vineyards and equipment were as safe as possible.
Thanks to these efforts, Southern Highland Wines was able to minimise the damage caused by the bushfires. They did lose some vines and some of the wines were lost but overall damage was limited and they were able to resume normal operations soon after the fires were over.
The company’s quick thinking, attention to detail and well-preparedness helped them to survive the bushfire and it serves as a good example of how other businesses can prepare and respond to bushfires in the future.
3 – Floods
According to the Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology, 2020 was the wettest year on record for parts of eastern Australia, resulting in widespread flooding. In Queensland, over 100 towns and communities were affected by the floods, with an estimated damage bill of over $1 billion AUD (Useful resource: The social, financial and economic costs of the 2022 South East Queensland Rainfall and Flooding Event
In the state of New South Wales, the town of Lismore was particularly hard hit, with the Wilsons River reaching its highest level in over 60 years. Many homes and businesses were flooded, and the local council estimates the damage at over $100 million AUD.
To reduce the impact of flooding on their premises, businesses can take the following steps:
- Develop a Flood Response Plan to prepare, respond & recover from floods.
- Conduct a Flood Risk Assessment to understand which assets need protection and identify hazards.
- Implement Flood Protection Measures such as flood barriers, elevating critical equipment & making sure drainage systems are clear.
- Have an Emergency Supply Kit with food, water, first aid, flashlights, batteries.
- Educate staff with emergency plan & regular training sessions to ensure they understand their roles during a flood.
4 – Droughts
Droughts are a common natural disaster in Australia, particularly in the eastern and southern regions of the country. These prolonged dry periods can have a significant impact on agriculture, as well as on water supplies. A recent example, one of the worst droughts in the history of New South Wales, ran from 2017 to 2020, resulting in widespread crop failures and water shortages for the residents.
The 2017-2020 droughts in New South Wales, Australia had a wide-ranging impact on the supply chain, affecting agriculture, food processing, manufacturing, retailing, transportation and more. Businesses were impacted by crop failures, food and water shortages, increased prices, and difficulty in transportation. This forced many small businesses to close or scale back operations. To mitigate these effects, businesses can diversify supply sources, maintain buffer stocks and implement efficient logistics processes.
5 – Earthquakes
Although earthquakes are not as common in Australia as other natural disasters, they do occur, particularly in the eastern and southern regions of the country. In 1989, an earthquake measuring 5.6 magnitude struck Newcastle, New South Wales, killing 13 people and injuring more than 160 others.
The frequency of earthquakes in the country is relatively low, however, the lack of preparedness and understanding of the risks may increase the impact of an event.
The building codes and standards for earthquake-resistant construction are not as stringent as in other countries like New Zealand or Japan, which may make certain buildings more vulnerable to damage in the event of an earthquake.
Additionally, the general population’s awareness and preparedness for earthquakes is limited compared to other natural disasters such as bushfires and floods. This lack of preparedness and understanding can contribute to increased loss of life and property damage in the event of a significant earthquake.
It’s important no matter how unlikely or rare an earthquake is, your organisation still puts this in your emergency plan.
It is important for residents and businesses of Australia to be aware of the risks associated with these natural disasters and to take steps to prepare for them. This includes creating an emergency plan, stocking up on emergency supplies, and staying informed about the latest weather and disaster warnings.
By being prepared, individuals, businesses, and communities can minimise the potential damage and loss of life caused by these natural disasters.