24 November 2020

Severe weather checklists for business: cyclones, floods, storms, bushfires

Protect your business from severe weather events including fires with these precaution checklists to action ahead of a threat and guides for how to be prepared for emergency conditions.


Cyclone ‒ quick guide to protecting your business in the event of a cyclone

Northern areas of Australian including Far North Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia are prone to cyclones, and although it’s not typical they have occurred in other parts of Australia also.

The combination of driving winds and torrential rain are a threat to business owners’ property and cause loss of revenue from interruption to normal trading or prevention of access.

When to act and what to do

Businesses in areas that are prone to cyclones should have a permanent emergency plan, and allow sufficient lead time to maximise protection against cyclone conditions. Also check your insurance cover ahead of cyclone season so you know what it covers and to ensure your replacement values are up to date.

In the instance of a cyclone the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) issues tropical cyclone advice when wind gust speeds are expected to exceed 62 kilometres an hour, and issues warnings 24 hours ahead of the anticipated onset of gale force winds, advising the intensity of a cyclone on a scale of 1 to 5, based on the wind speed severity.

Before vacating your business premises to take shelter

  • turn off electricity, gas and water, and unplug appliances

  • park vehicles under cover

  • secure external doors and windows

  • secure external items that could be blown about

  • keep your pre-packed emergency kit with you

  • know your destination, the route you should take and have your vehicle fuelled up and pre-packed

  • if you are caught in transit stop somewhere that is clear of water courses, trees and power lines, and stay in the vehicle

  • if you are unable to leave in time take shelter in the strongest part of the building, clear of any windows: the basement, toilet or a hallway

  • check via radio for status updates or new directions.

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Flood ‒ quick guide to protecting your business in the event of a severe flood

In floods conditions can change rapidly, especially in areas prone to flash flooding: low lying land, valleys and natural and manmade waterways. They can be triggered by storm surges or heavy rainfall.

To find out if your area is prone to flooding check your local council or state emergency service records. Also ensure your business insurance covers you for flood damage and if not, whether cover is available.

When to act and what to do

Flood warnings are issued by the BOM and are escalated to a flood evacuation warning when your area and its access routes are under threat. Because of the speed of flood water movement it’s important to be aware of the history of flooding in your area, and to monitor communications issued by the authorities for directions on the actions you need to take.

If you receive a flood warning and have time

  • clear drains of debris

  • secure heavy items that could cause damage inside and outdoors

  • turn off electricity, gas and water at the mains

  • move hazardous substances to a higher level

  • relocate equipment, stock and documents to a higher level

  • make copies of essential documents and take them with you in a waterproof container

  • leave the doors open

  • have an emergency evacuation plan and route to safety for yourself and staff.

Storms ‒ quick guide to protecting your business in the event of a severe storm

Severe storms can occur in any part of Australia and may bring thunder and lightning, gale force winds or damaging hail. Strikes involving large hailstones can cause significant damage, especially to roofs, windows and vehicles.

Having a storm response action plan in place is well worthwhile, such as having an emergency generator and key business information backed up to the Cloud. If applicable, check that your insurance cover for property damage includes external buildings, fences and stock.


When to act and what to do

Hail warnings are usually issued in advance of storms, allowing time to take protective measures and shelter under cover.

If there is impending hail or severe storm warning, protective measures you can take include

  • maintain roofs and sarking
  • park vehicles under cover
  • protect vehicles and outdoor equipment with secured tarpaulins
  • secure external doors
  • close window coverings to prevent broken glass blowing inside
  • move exposed stock indoors or make arrangements to protect it
  • disconnect all electrical items
  • secure loose items outdoors around premises such as business signs
  • prepare an emergency evacuation kit. 

Bushfire ‒ quick guide to preparing your business for a bushfire threat

Bushfires have always been a risk in Australia, and higher temperatures with prolonged drought and climate change factors have contributed to conditions that spark hard to control fires, with heat, winds and dry fuel each adding to the higher risk of bushfire impact.

Wherever you are in the country you can ascertain your bushfire attack level (BAL) which classifies your property into risk categories according to your region, surrounding vegetation, surrounding clearance and the slope on the property, and provides fire retardant recommendations.

Acting on this bushfire risk preventions should improve your business property’s risk and is viewed favourably by insurers because it could help protect your assets, your business ‒ and in extreme conditions, your life.

When to act and what to do

Take preventative measures before bushfire season starts by ensuring your insurance cover is up to date and that your business property is clear of hazards. It’s also advisable to have an emergency kit packed in case of evacuation alerts.

If a fire is approaching, you and your staff should leave the premises while you still have access to a place of greater safety.

Before fire season starts

  • review your business insurance cover to ensure any recent large purchases are recorded. if you live on a property, check that your fences, gates and outbuildings are included

  • also review your sums insured: are they adequate for a complete rebuild at today’s costs?

  • keep your business data backed up regularly

  • can other key items or valuable stock easily be moved to safety?

  • keep your roof and gutters clear of debris

  • check your roof and seal any gaps to protect against an ember attack

  • store flammable materials safely and securely, moving hazardous substances away from your building

  • have a staff safety plan in place for timely evacuation of the premises

  • if there is time when threatened by bushfire hose down the exterior of your building(s), concentrating on filling the guttering on the roof, if applicable.


We’re here to help

Your insurance broker can help you review your business insurance to ensure you have adequate coverage and please get in touch if you need any support.

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Official contacts for help in an emergency or disaster situation

Further reading

Commercial property insurance

Commercial property risks 4 fundamental areas that impact your risk profile

Local business broker support

Don’t be underinsured article


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