Storms and severe weather - strong wind, lightning strikes, rain, flooding and hail can occur at any time.
Not all storms are severe, yet they are one of the most costly natural disasters in Australia causing extensive damage each year.
The Bureau of Meteorology defines severe storms as those that produce any of the following:
- Hailstones with a diameter of 2cm (the size of a $2 coin) or more
- Wind gusts of 90kmh or greater
- Overland flow, storm water or inundation
Before a storm
Storms can happen at any time, and without much warning, so the best way to protect your family, home, business and assets from damage and loss is to be prepared. Insurance helps to do this.
Assess your risk. Your local state emergency services group will be able to provide advice on how to prepare for storms in your area.
Prepare a disaster supply kit, with cash, food, water, toiletries, medication, a household inventory of your belongings, copies of important documents, protective clothing, a radio and a torch – and batteries for both.
Once a storm is heading towards your local are, it is usually too late to check your insurance cover, or buy a policy. To ensure you are prepared for storms:
- Review your insurance policy. Find out what is included in the policy and understand its inclusions and exclusions. Always contact your insurer if you have questions
- Most insurers regard rainwater runoff as part of storm cover but some insurers won’t cover rainwater runoff or storm surge when the customer chooses not to take flood cover. These options are explained in the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) for your policy
- Prepare a room-by-room inventory and take pictures of the contents of your home. This inventory will help insurers speed up a claim in the event of a loss caused by a storm
- Check how much your property is insured for and update it if you do not have enough insurance
- Check you have comprehensive car insurance. Remember that compulsory third-party insurance does not cover damage to your vehicle
- Check that guttering and pipes are not blocked and that the roof is in good condition
- Have waterproof bags ready to protect clothing and important documents from storm damage
During a storm
Severe storms can destroy homes, damage infrastructure, fell trees and leave communities without power, gas and mains water.
Once you know a storm is approaching, you should enact your disaster plan, follow the instructions of local authorities and emergency services and remain calm.
How to minimise damage to your property during a storm
There are practical steps you can take to stay safe and minimise damage to your property during a storm, including:
- Move your car under cover or away from trees
- Remove dead or rotting trees and trim branches that overhang property (do it safely and remember that you may require a council permit)
- Secure all loose items outside your property, such as garden furniture, umbrellas, sheds, trampolines and cubby houses
- If a storm is approaching, close shutters on doors and windows. If there are no shutters close window blinds, drapes and curtains
- Unplug non-essential electrical equipment, install surge protectors and be prepared to turn off mains power, water, gas and solar power well before the storm arrives
- Have your disaster supply kit on standby
- Listen to ABC local radio for updates
- Decide how to protect your pets
- While conditions are severe, stay indoors and keep clear of windows.
After a storm
After the immediate danger of a severe storm has passed you should check your home for damage. Avoid turning on the power if there is flooding and have an electrician conduct a thorough inspection.
You should avoid driving, as roads may be blocked, stay away from storm-damaged areas and property until emergency services declare it’s safe to return. Stay away from downed power lines, and fallen trees.
Avoid entering floodwater on foot or in a vehicle. Floodwater can contain raw sewage and contaminants, conduct electricity and mask hidden hazards. It can be deeper than you think and may be flowing rapidly.
Once you have checked your home for damage you should:
- Contact your insurer as soon as possible to lodge a claim. If you are not insured, your recovery will depend upon your own resources and help that may be available from government or non-government agencies
- Speak to your insurer before you attempt or authorise any building work, including emergency repairs. Ask for the insurer’s permission in writing; unauthorised work may not be covered by your policy
- If your home is unsafe, notify your local authorities and check with your insurance company whether you can claim temporary housing expenses
- Take photographs or videos of damage to property and possessions, and keep samples of materials from damaged goods, as evidence to support your claim. This will be used by your insurance assessor to process your claim as quickly as possible
- Remove and discard any water or mud-damaged goods that pose a health risk, such as saturated carpets and soft furnishings, but remember to take photos and keep samples of materials and fabrics
- Keep any items that could be repaired and if in doubt speak to your insurer
- Do not be concerned if you can’t find your insurance papers. Insurers have electronic records and only require your name and address.