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3.1 Preparing for an Emergency


The information in this section is sourced from the excellent NSW SES, NSW RFS, Australian Red Cross, ABC Emergency and MidCoast Council websites, where more detailed advice and templates are available.






The Red Cross site provides an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide to preparing for emergencies which can strike at anytime, anywhere and without warning. 

In addition to general preparedness information, the SES and RFS sites provide detailed information about preparing for flood, storm, tsunami and bushfire. In addition to this, the MidCoast Council has information on other types of emergency including heatwave, infectious disease and biosecurity threats. 

The ABC site provides guidance on preparing for a flood, storm or severe weather including a checklist of practical things to do before, during and after a flood.

The key message is… Prepare now. Be alert. Act early.

Put together an emergency kit

An Emergency Kit can help save precious time in an emergency situation. It provides items you might need if you lose power or need to leave your home in a hurry. To help put your emergency kit together, you can download a useful “emergency pack list” at https://www.redcross.org.au/prepare/.  

Basic emergency kit contents include:

  • Portable radio with spare batteries
  • Torch (waterproof) with spare batteries
  • First aid kit (with supplies necessary for your household)
  • Candles and waterproof matches
  • A combination pocket knife 
  • Woollen blankets
  • Rubber gloves
  • Emergency contact numbers
  • Waterproof bag for valuables

When leaving or evacuating your property, place in your emergency kit:

  • Mobile phone and charger
  • Cash and credit cards
  • Medications and current prescriptions 
  • Toiletries and sanitary supplies
  • Fresh food and drinking water
  • Identification documents, (medicare card, drivers licence, passport, healthcare card, pension card, copy of utility accounts etc)
  • Any special requirements for babies, the disabled, infirm and/or elderly
  • Important papers and valuables (in a waterproof bag) 
  • A change of appropriate clothing and footwear

Keep your emergency kit in a waterproof storage container. On a regular basis, check your emergency kit. Remember to check use-by dates (eg batteries, first-aid supplies, medications) and restock items if you need to.

Why not save copies of your important documents to a USB stick / flash drive that you can keep with your emergency kit?

Prepare your home

A well prepared home is more likely to survive a bush fire or ember attack and can help reduce damage caused by severe storms. Here are some general steps you can take to prepare your home. For more detailed advice on how to prepare your home for a bushfire see 


  •  Maintain your yard and balcony clean and free of rubbish
  •  Clean your gutters, downpipes and drains
  •  Trim trees and branches
  •  Keep your roof in good condition
  •  Check your insurance policy
  •  Listen to your local radio station
  • Also, keep a list of emergency numbers near your phone or on your fridge. 


In the event of expected flooding, sandbags are generally available at one or more of the following locations in Harrington:

  • SES Unit in Hogan Street
  • Men’s Shed in Nicholson Street
  • Fire Station in Pilot Street
  • Near the Skate Park in Beach Street

Prepare yourself and family

Preparing for an emergency should include considering your physical, mental and emotional preparedness. Bush fires, floods and storms can be terrifying and extremely demanding both mentally and physically. Power and water may be cut off. You may be isolated.

To help keep your stress levels down and make better decisions in an emergency, it’s good to know, and have practised, a way to manage your stress such as taking deep breaths, using positive self talk (eg “I can do this”), and helping other people to stay calm. 


Make an emergency plan

Making a bushfire survival plan means knowing your risk and knowing what to do during a fire. Many households find that having a discussion over dinner works best as everybody is together and focussed. See https://www.myfireplan.com.au or https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/plan-and-prepare/bush-fire-survival-plan

It is highly recommended that you visit this RFS website. It has detailed step-by-step guides on how to prepare your home so it is more likely to survive, how to prepare if your plan is to leave early, and how to prepare if your plan is to stay and defend your property. 

If you have any doubts about your ability to cope, you should plan to leave early, well before you are under threat. People who are at higher risk, such as children, elderly, disabled or with medical problems, should always leave early. Leaving early is always your safest option. 

Similarly, it is wise to know your risks and plan now what to do if there is a flood, storm or tsunami. This can save your life and the lives of others. It can also minimise damage to your property and possessions. 

See https://www.sesemergencyplan.com.au

The Red Cross RediPlan is a free disaster preparedness guide packed with helpful hints and clever strategies on how to prepare for disasters and make your emergency plan. It includes handy templates for recording information about your important documents (including insurance), utility providers, medical conditions and medication list, contact numbers for neighbours and much more. It can be downloaded at https://www.redcross.org.au/prepare/

If you are a senior, have a physical disability, a chronic illness or have recently moved to the area, special guides for using RediPlan can be found at https://www.redcross.org.au/emergencies/resources/

Also available from Red Cross is the Get Prepared mobile phone app. Get Prepared is an easy to use app that helps you access information and tools to complete an emergency plan and share it with your key support people. It builds on the Red Cross RediPlan. 

Look out for your neighbours, friends and family

Work with your neighbours to identify any hazards on your properties that could increase risk during a bushfire or cause damage in a storm, this may include overhanging trees or items that could blow around and cause damage. 

Share your plan with friends and family to ensure everyone has the same understanding.

Ensure you keep people’s contact details handy in case you need to contact them in an emergency, they may be able to help you out with something if you’re not home for some reason. 

Don’t forget to have a plan for your pets

Because of the close bonds people have with their pets, people do risky things in an emergency such as delaying evacuation because they have not planned what to do with their animals, and entering unsafe environments to retrieve their animals.

Preparing your pets and small animals in advance of an emergency will reduce the level of risk and stress for you and your animals. Search ‘SES Get Ready Animals’ for helpful advice.

Tips for seniors and people with a disability

Sometimes people who are frail or have a disability may need some further assistance from family, friends, neighbours and carers. 

Here are some useful tips.

  • Identify your own capabilities and any support or assistance you may need 
  • Identify and speak with relatives, neighbours or friends that can provide help in an emergency 
  • Identify a support person 
  • Prepare a Home Emergency Plan with your support person and give them a copy of your plan 
  • Speak with your carer or service provider
  • Prepare an emergency kit (see above)

Consider including the following as part of your Home Emergency Plan

  •  A list of your support persons and their contact details 
  •  Contact numbers for your care provider and doctor 
  •  Instructions on how to turn off your electricity and gas 
  •  A list of what is in your emergency kit and where it is located 
  •  A list of locations for friends, relatives and neighbours that you can go to 
  •  Your evacuation plans if you are required to leave your home 
  •  A list of items that need to be raised if flooding occurs 
  •  A list of dangerous or hazardous items around your house 
  •  Instructions on how care will be provided to your pets 
  •  Information on where to find the latest weather forecast and weather warnings
  •  A description of any medical issues or disability 
  •  A list of any essential medications or equipment and instructions for their use 
  •  The location of disability related supplies and any special equipment you require

The SES website includes additional information and advice for people living with hearing, visual, intellectual or mobility impairments and their carers. 


A variety of SES factsheets are also available in languages other than English. 


The Assist Infirm, Disabled and Elderly Residents Program (AIDER) 

If you have limited ability to prepare and cannot access support from family, friends or other services to prepare your property on bush fire prone land, then the NSW RFS may be able to provide assistance via the AIDER Program.  This is a free, one-off service for eligible community members.

For more information, contact the AIDER Team by phone 02 8741 4955, 

email aider@rfs.nsw.gov.au or at www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/plan-and-prepare/aider  


Harrington & Surrounds website is owned & maintained by the Harrington & Surrounds Business & Community Association Incorporated.


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