preparing for summer weather storms and fires with virgin money

How to prepare your home to weather El Niño

After several years of La Niña bringing cooler temperatures and wet weather to Australian shores, meteorologists have predicted that El Niño (think: droughts, heatwaves and bushfires) is set to make a comeback. The good news is there’s plenty you can do to manage the risks. So, what can you do now to safeguard your property, so you can relax and enjoy a worry-free summer?

Sort out your home insurance

Has buying or renewing your home insurance policy been on your to-do list for a while? Set aside some time to get some quotes so that your most precious assets are covered in the event of extreme weather hitting your local area.      

Already insured? Don’t forget to review your policy periodically to check that it reflects your current circumstances. If you’ve renovated, added an extension or bought new furniture, art, jewellery or other high-value items, you may be underinsured. After all, replacing your sizeable collection of limited edition sneakers or rare Pokémon cards won’t come cheap!

Remember that Australian insurance policies consider the bushfire and flood risk to your property. So, before moving into a new home be sure to check if it’s located in a bushfire or flood zone and make sure your insurance policy has adequate cover for these types of events, as this will likely impact the amount you pay in home and contents insurance each year. 

Get set for storm season

While El Niño is associated with drought, heatwaves and bushfires in Australia, the warmer months usually see increased thunderstorm activity too. In general, Australians can expect to experience more storms from September to March. Of course, damaging thunderstorms can happen at any time throughout the year. It’s always good to, as the Scouts say, 'be prepared'.

Here are a few things you can do to safeguard your property during storm season: 

  • Prune large tree branches that overhang your home, garage or shed.
  • Get any large trees on your property assessed by arborists to ensure they’re healthy and not at risk of falling over in storms.
  • Clear gutters, downpipes and drains of leaves and other debris that could create blockages.
  • Pack away or secure large items like patio furniture, trampolines or swing sets that could come loose and damage your home or injure someone.
  • Keep on top of roof repairs and maintenance. A roof with loose, cracked tiles or worn-out steel is more likely to leak and potentially cause damage to your interiors.  
  • Ensure your car, boat or motorbike is in a garage, carport or under cover to avoid being damaged by hail or tree branches.
  • Keep a charged power bank in your home so you can charge your phone if downed power lines interrupt your electricity supply.  

Be bushfire ready 

Prior to bushfire season there is plenty you can do to prepare. Remember, you don’t need to live in an isolated, off-grid bush cabin to be impacted by bushfires. Any property located near grasslands, coastal scrub, paddocks or forested areas can be threatened by bushfires, especially during summer.  

Here’s a handy list of things you can do to prepare and minimise your risks:

  • Write and review your bushfire plan, including information about the route you’ll take to leave your property, including how you’ll transport your pets. Don’t forget to share your plan with your family and neighbours.
  • Maintain your property by slashing or cutting the grass short, cleaning your gutters, pruning overhanging tree branches and removing any leaf litter or overgrown vegetation that’s near your home.
  • Build and maintain an emergency kit containing protective clothing, fire-resistant blankets, first aid supplies, bottled water, torches, spare batteries, a charged battery pack for your phone and a battery-powered radio so you can tune into ABC Local Radio for important bushfire updates.
  • Check your district’s Fire Danger Rating daily and follow advice from your local fire authority such as the CFA (Country Fire Authority) in Victoria or RFS (Rural Fire Service) in New South Wales.  

Moving forward 

Having your property impacted by a damaging weather event is a challenging experience to navigate. Before jumping in to clean up, it’s important to step back and assess the situation. Here are some things to think about before you roll up your sleeves: 

  • Contact emergency services or wait for the 'all clear' before heading back into affected areas.
  • Always put your safety first. Never touch live wires, enter or drive into flood waters or pick up hazardous waste without wearing protective gear like gloves and a face mask. 
  • While it’s tempting to do it yourself, some jobs are best left to qualified tradespeople like electricians, plumbers and arborists.
  • Dealing with the aftermath of a fire, flood or storm can be challenging. Seek counselling and other forms of support if you’re feeling overwhelmed. 
  • Recovering can take time. Be sure to stay connected to your friends, family and community as you rebuild. 

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