What to do after a cyclone
This article was originally published in February 2017 and has been updated.
- The weeks after a cyclone can pose serious risks such as debris, fallen power lines and potential health threats from contaminated food or water
- Only return to your home when it’s safe to do so, and start to note any damage that you may need to claim on insurance
- Demand may be high for tradespeople, but it is critical that any repairs are completed before the next cyclone season.
Tropical cyclones have a well-deserved reputation for causing extensive damage to Australian communities. And even after a cyclone has passed, the danger is not always over. The days and weeks after a cyclone can continue to pose a number of risks, which need to be navigated with care.
Returning home after a cyclone
If you were forced to evacuate your home during a cyclone, it’s understandable if you’re anxious to return and assess the damage. But be sure to wait until an all-clear is given. Even then, the effects of a cyclone such as debris, downed power lines and unexpected wind gusts, can still be dangerous.
So, take great care on the journey home, and resist the urge to go sightseeing. The Queensland state government warns that people have been injured or killed while sightseeing in the aftermath of a cyclone.
Before you enter your home or go anywhere near a building, check carefully for hazards and stay away from downed power lines, poles and wires, or fallen trees. Don’t plug in electrical appliances if you think they may have been wet. If in doubt, have them checked by a professional.
The first sight of destruction caused by a cyclone can be confronting. It’s likely you’ll be facing a big clean-up. But do take care. There are several threats to be aware of including:
- Injuries from falls
- Electric shock
- Snake or spider bites
- Mosquito-borne infections
- Illness from contaminated food or polluted drinking water.
Debris can be a serious problem according to Arron Mann, QBE's General Manager, Claims. He explains, "Cyclones bring such high wind speeds that all sorts of debris can be thrown around – trees, branches, leaves as well as household items and building materials. Take special care around trees because of the threat of falling branches."
Have the right equipment after a cyclone
Safely getting through the days and weeks following a cyclone will be easier if you have some basic equipment on hand. This includes:
- A well-stocked first aid kit including family medications
- Protective clothing – closed-toe shoes, long sleeved shirts and trousers, thick gloves, a hat and sunglasses
- Insect repellent – especially against sandflies and mosquitos.
Health issues after a cyclone
In the aftermath of a cyclone, basic services such as power, sewage and fresh water supply may be interrupted, which can increase personal risk.
Polluted water can be one of the biggest hazards. Until your local council declares that drinking water is safe, take the precaution of boiling water before drinking. Any contaminated food should be thrown out.
If you are injured, disinfect any wounds and keep them covered, avoiding contact with flood water or mud, and seek medical attention. Wash your hands frequently, especially after contact with damaged materials, flood water or mud to avoid infection.
Your property after a cyclone
If your home has not sustained structural damage – and authorities say it’s safe to return, you can help dry your home’s interior by opening doors and windows.
If your property has been impacted, make a list of any damage, noting whether you think items can be cleaned or are beyond repair. Taking videos and photographs of the damage will help if you need to make a claim on your home and contents insurance or car insurance.
Stay in touch with your insurer
One of the challenges presented by cyclones is that the clean-up effort can see high demand for services and trades. In regional and remote areas, this can be a significant problem, and it’s important to have all the repairs completed before the next cyclone season arrives.
It’s an area where QBE can help says Mann. He notes, "Our assessors will work with you to work out the best way to complete repairs."
Insurers like QBE can also help with family essentials. "If you’re in real need, please reach out to us," urges Mann. "You may be eligible for an early payment, which we can make by electronic funds transfer to help you get back on your feet sooner."
Look after your emotional wellbeing
The devastation caused by a cyclone can be extremely traumatic, and may be especially frightening for children or the elderly. Make time to look after your emotional welfare, and if needed, contact Lifeline or your GP for emotional support.