Relief & Recovery

Recovering from a storm

General information to help you recover from a storm

After a severe storm:

  • Check your home and property for damage.
  • Keep clear of damaged buildings, power lines and trees.
  • Be aware of road hazards such as floodwater, debris and damaged roads or bridges.
  • Do not drive through affected areas unless it is necessary.

If your property has been damaged

Before going onto your property consider the following:

  • Gas or electricity supplies may be damaged – these may need to be confirmed safe by a qualified electrician.
  • The structural integrity of your home may be affected and weakened– this needs to be declared safe by a qualified building surveyor.
  • When cleaning up wear protective clothing (such as long pants and full sleeves) when returning home to your property. Make sure you also wear sturdy footwear and heavy-duty work gloves.  Wash your hands after removing contaminated clothing and articles.
  • Hazardous materials may include asbestos. Asbestos fibres can cause health problems if they are breathed in.
  • Contact your local council’s environmental health officer for enquiries or concerns regarding the safe removal or disposal of asbestos.
  • For information on asbestos visit the Better Health Channel website:

Insurance considerations

  • Contact your insurance company as soon as possible to check what your policy includes or excludes, and seek guidance on the claims process.
  • Do not be concerned if you can’t find your insurance papers. Insurers have electronic records and need only your name and address
  • Speak to your insurer before you attempt or authorise any building work, including emergency repairs, and ask for the insurer’s permission in writing. Unauthorised work may not be covered by your policy
  • Avoid turning the power on at your home if there is flooding. Have a professional conduct a thorough inspection first
  • If your home is unsafe, notify your local authorities and check with your insurance company whether you can claim temporary housing expenses.
  • Take photographs or videos of damage to property and possessions, and keep samples of materials from damaged goods, as evidence to support your claim. This will be used by your insurer to process your claim as quickly as possible
  • You can remove and discard any water or mud-damaged goods that pose a health risk, such as saturated carpets and soft furnishings, but take photos and keep samples of materials and fabrics to show the assessor
  • Keep any items that could be repaired and if in doubt speak to your insurer.
  • If you are in urgent financial need you can ask your insurer to fast track your claim and make an advance payment within five business days of you demonstrating your urgent financial need. Any advance payment may be deducted from the total value of your claim.
  • If your claim has been finalised within one month of the disaster, your insurer must give you six months from the finalisation date to ask for a review of your claim (for instance, if you think the insurer has not accurately assessed your loss), even if you have signed a release.

See the Insurance Council of Australia’s website Understand Insurance for more information.

Septic tanks

  • Most septic tanks should not be structurally damaged by storms as they are below ground.
  • However if you suspect your septic tank has been damaged, do not use or flush your toilet until you know that the septic tank system and associated pipes are intact.
  • If you suspect your system has been physically damaged, contact a licensed plumbing practitioner to have it assessed.

Mosquitos

  • Mosquitoes can breed rapidly in stagnant waters. Drain any water from containers such as plant pots, tyres, buckets, and roof gutters (if blocked by leaf debris) to control mosquitoes around your home.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites by wearing long, loose clothing and by regularly applying repellent (containing Picaridin or DEET) to all exposed skin. Keep mosquitoes out of your home by closing doors and windows, and repairing or sealing damaged fly screens.
  • For more information go to www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/campaigns/beat-the-bite

Power outages

  • The Department of Health and Human Services will work with energy providers to ensure those customers dependent on power are being checked on.
  • People on life support who require access to power for medical reasons should continue to enact their personal contingency plan.
  • People should speak to their doctor if they have any concerns.
  • In a life threatening emergency, contact Triple Zero (000).

What to do if you're experiencing a power outage

What if I am feeling unwell or need medical assistance and I have no power?

Speak to your doctor if you any concerns, or contact Nurse on Call on 1300 606 024. In a life threatening emergency, call Triple Zero (000).

What do I do with refrigerated or frozen food during a power outage?

Food safety is important during a power failure. Cold or frozen food must be kept cold (less than 5 degrees) for it to be safe to consume. Once cold or frozen food is no longer cold to touch, it can be kept and eaten for up to four hours and then it must be thrown away or, if it is raw meat, it should be cooked and eaten.

During a power failure:

  • Move food from the fridge to the freezer.
  • If available, put bagged ice under food packages and trays stored in freezers and fridges if the power failure lasts more than one hour.
  • Place an insulating blanket over cold or frozen food where possible.
  • Only open the fridge and freezer doors when absolutely necessary. This will keep the food and air temperature colder for longer.
  • Eat hot food within 4 hours of it being heated or throw it away.
  • If power is restored when frozen food is still frozen solid the food is safe.

Portable generators

Using portable generators and alternative power supply options can allow for normal activities to continue; however it is important to use them safely.

If not used safely portable generators can lead to:

  • carbon monoxide poisoning from the engine exhaust.
  • electric shock or electrocution.
  • fire.

Householders must follow the directions supplied with the generator to ensure safe use.

Do not use a portable generator indoors. This includes inside a garage, carport, basement, crawlspace or other enclosed or partially enclosed area, even with ventilation.

Opening doors and windows will not prevent carbon monoxide building up in the home. It is a good idea to install battery-operated carbon monoxide alarms in your home to alert you when carbon monoxide levels pose a health risk. Test the battery frequently and replace when needed.

Factsheets can be found here (translated into 20 languages):

What should I do if my septic tank has been affected by the power outage?

  • Until you are certain your septic system is working properly, minimise your water use.
  • If you suspect your wastewater system has been affected by power outage, contact a licensed plumbing practitioner or service agent to have it assessed.
  • Do not enter the pump chamber: gases from decaying sewage inside pump chambers are toxic and can be fatal.
  • Septic tanks may be pumped out by a licenced wastewater removal contractor if deemed necessary, for example if blockages have occurred. However, the septic tank must be filled with clean water to prevent the tank from lifting, moving or rolling.

What if I have pets that needing looking after?

  • You should initially seek assistance from friends and family. If this is not possible then you may wish to contact any local Animal Aid resources.
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