In recent years, Australians have been confronted with the stark reality that the frequency and intensity of natural disasters and emergencies is on the rise. In the face of our ever-changing climate, we need to be asking the question, are we prepared?
Recent data from an Australian Red Cross survey paints a troubling picture that despite Australians being increasingly concerned about the potential impact of heatwaves, bushfires, floods, heavy rain, and power outages in the next 12 months, 90 per cent of us are not taking the necessary steps to prepare.
According to July's online survey of 1000 Australians, 58 per cent anticipate being hit by heatwaves in the next year. That's more than double the number from just five years ago. For rural and regional communities, where sweltering summers can be relentless, this heightened risk is particularly concerning.
The threat of bushfires is becoming more prominent in our minds, with 34 per cent expressing apprehension about fires compared to 26 per cent half a decade ago. Meanwhile, fears of floods and heavy rain have surged from 29 per cent in 2018 to 43 per cent today.
If the disasters themselves are not worrying enough, a further 38 per cent of Australians anticipate major power outages lasting four hours or more could occur. This is a significant increase from five years ago and for those in remote areas, where power disruptions can have far-reaching consequences, planning ahead is vital.
The survey reflects a growing sentiment that "anything could happen" and these numbers tell a story of a nation increasingly aware of the risks yet uncertain about what steps to take to prepare.
While it's comforting to believe that emergencies whether big or small won't strike us, the truth is that they can, and they do. The impact extends beyond the physical, to the psychological and emotional, with the survey revealing 81 per cent of respondents agree that psychological preparedness is as crucial as practical readiness in facing an emergency.
The good news is, with the right level of preparation, we can be ready to face and recover from emergencies.
That is why Australian Red Cross is calling on people and communities across Australia to take action during this year's Emergency Ready Week.
Our message is clear, preparedness is our armour against the unknown. It's not just about stockpiling supplies, preparing properties and devising an evacuation plan, which are vital steps, it's also about fortifying our mental and emotional resilience. Research and our decades of experience across the country demonstrates that the better prepared we are for an emergency, the better our recovery, both psychologically and emotionally.
Emergency Ready Week is intended to remind people of the importance of preparedness.
Preparing isn't just a checklist, it's a journey that requires thoughtful consideration and it can protect us when disasters happen. It's about having time to think ahead, investing time to get to know your neighbours and others in your community, ask advice on what worked from people who may have been through a disaster, create an emergency kit, and identify who you would contact for emotional or practical support you might need if a crisis occurred.
Take a look around you now, think about how long you would need to grab your essential items if you had the luxury of time to exit your home. Where are your important documents? Do you have cash if there is no power for electronic payments? What will you do with your pets or animals? Who can you call on for help or shelter?
How will you, your family, and your community respond when disaster strikes? Australia's regional communities are resilient and resourceful and need to be prepared. We can all play an important role - to prepare ourselves, our families, and our communities for the unpredictable challenges that lie ahead, and together, continue to build a more resilient and disaster-ready Australia.
We are encouraging Australians, regardless of where you call home, to download our Get Prepared app from the Apple Store or Google Play . The app provides a comprehensive guide, based on the internationally recognised RediPlan, to help you plan for emergencies. It covers practical necessities and crucially, the psychological aspects of preparation. Alternatively, you can download and create an emergency plan using RediPlan, available at redcross.org.au/emergencies/resources
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