Are you disaster ready? It’s not about a torch and a can of baked beans

When the skies turn jet black with smoke and flames race across your lawn, it’s too late. When vicious howling winds tear the roof off your family home, there’s no time to get prepared. There is no time to save anything. There’s no time for anything, at all.

Our research shows Australians aren’t well prepared for disaster – 92% of people don’t have a written disaster plan and more than half of us haven’t worked out how we’re going to protect the objects most precious to us. This October we’re calling on all Australians to get disaster ready.

‘Summer is about to start, bringing with it the increased risk of a natural disaster of cyclones, floods, storms and bushfires. Like every year, we have no idea what’s coming, or when. Now is the time to prepare,’ says Australian Red Cross’ Emergency Services National Preparedness Coordinator John Richardson. ‘Emergencies happen and we can’t change that, but we can change how they affect our lives.

‘Preparing doesn’t just help you to survive a disaster; it’s also helps you recover from one. Recovery can take years, but research shows that people who’ve prepared can get their lives back on track faster, with less stress and anxiety.

‘Preparing is about more than having an escape route, a torch and a shelf of tinned food. A vital part, which so many people don’t realise until it’s too late, is working out how to protect what’s precious to you,’ says Mr Richardson, who has spent nearly two decades working with people affected by disasters, including the 2002 Bali bombings , USA’s Hurricane Katrina and the Black Saturday Victorian Bushfires.

‘Protecting life is always your first priority, but making sure you protect the things that make up who you are will help you to recover. It is about anchoring you to the past, and helping start a new life. For me it’s an old footy jumper and my grandad’s war medals. For someone else it might be their kid’s teddy bear and their vinyl collection. At Red Cross we know firsthand when people lose those things that make up the very fabric of their lives, recovery from a disastrous event can seem daunting and sometimes almost impossible.’

Emergencies affect hundreds of thousands of people across Australia every year. Lives are turned upside down, homes damaged, the things we hold precious destroyed, and people pushed into financial crisis.  For some life will never be the same again.

‘Australia is a disaster-prone nation – Black Saturday, the Sydney Superstorm, Cyclone Tracy, last summer’s Waroona Bushfire – and they come in shapes and sizes, very often with little warning,’ Mr Richardson says. ‘This week, 18 to 25 October, is Red Cross’ Disaster Preparedness Week, and we are calling on all Australians to get disaster ready.’

Red Cross has been helping people prepare for, cope with and recover from emergencies since 1914. This month we’ve released our new REDiPlan, a simple and free four-step emergency preparation guide. It’s available on our website for everyone to download for free. Disaster Preparedness Week is sponsored by First National Real Estate, Land Rover and Medibank Private to help people survive, and to protect what matters most.