A cyclone is a violent storm with very high winds rotating around a calm centre of low pressure. Cyclones can cause destructive winds of more than 280kmh, as well as floods, storm surges and widespread damage.
The parts of Australia most at risk of cyclones are northern Queensland, northern Western Australia and the Northern Territory and the typical Australian tropical cyclone season averages nine to 13 tropical cyclones.
The strong wind, heavy rain and flying debris caused by a cyclone can extensively damage property.
In the mid 1980’s a cyclone building code was introduced for new properties built in cyclone-prone regions. This is intended to protect the residents from harm. There are also a number of retrofitting opportunities for homes at-risk of cyclone that may assist. This includes:
- Strengthening doors and windows with products such as storm shutters and debris screens
- Strengthening garage doors with wind locks that make it harder for doors to blow in
- Roof retrofitting to strengthen key tie-down points.
Residential properties are still vulnerable to extensive damage, which can be very expensive to repair. Many strata-title properties also have features that can be badly affected during cyclones, such as underground car parks, lifts, pools and landscaped gardens, annexes and sheds.
Before a cyclone
If you live in a cyclone-prone area you should assess your risk. Ask your local council if your property is within a cyclone evacuation zone and if your area is prone to flash or riverine flooding or storm surge.
Planning ahead is the best way to protect your family, home, business and assets from cyclones. Insurance helps to do this, so review your insurance policies and ensure your level of cover is appropriate.
If you are not insured, your recovery will depend on your own financial resources and assistance that may be available from government or non-government agencies.
You can take practical steps to reduce the damage caused by a cyclone. This includes:
- Prepare a disaster plan, including identifying the strongest part of your property in which to shelter during a cyclone
- Prepare a household inventory of the contents of your home
- Prepare a disaster supply kit, with cash, food, water, toiletries, medication, a household contents inventory, copies of important documents, protective clothing, a radio and a torch – and batteries for both
- Maintain your property to ensure there is no corrosion, rotten timber or loose fixtures that could weaken the structures
- Remove dead or rotting trees and trim branches that overhang the property and keep gutters clear
- Install appropriate windows or shutters to glass windows and doors and ensure all locks are strong enough to withstand strong wind
- Check the condition of your roof and repair any damage or loose tiles
- Know where and how to turn off mains power, water, gas and solar power
- Familiarise yourself with your insurance policy. Find out what is included in the policy and understand its exclusions. Contact your insurer if you have questions.