Prolonged hot weather can affect anybody. It may make existing medical conditions worse and can cause heat-related illness. In some cases heat effects may be fatal. It may also affect community infrastructure such as power supply and other support services. So it is important to know how to stay healthy in hot weather.
Who is at risk?
All Queenslanders are at risk during periods of hot or prolonged high temperatures, however some people are at a higher risk of harm. This includes:
- the elderly-especially those who live alone
- babies and very young children
- pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers
- people who suffer from a pre-existing medical condition-such as diabetes, kidney disease or mental illness
- people who take certain medications – such as allergy medicines (antihistamines), blood pressure and heart medications (beta-blockers), fluid tablets (diuretics) and anti-depressant or anti-psychotic medications. If you take medication, consult with your doctor for more information
- people with an alcohol or drug problem
- people with mobility problems or disability, who may not be able to identify or communicate their discomfort or thirst
- people who are physically active-such as manual workers and people who play sport.
Preparing for a heat wave
- Check air-conditioning at your home has been serviced and is working effectively.
- Ensure you have an enough food, water, medicines and toiletries to avoid going out in the heat.
- Store foods and medicines at a safe temperature. Read our food safety information to find out more.
- Consider your options if the heat wave causes a loss of electricity or disrupts public transport.
- Ensure you have a torch, fully charged mobile phone or a telephone that will work without electricity, a battery operated radio and sufficient batteries.
- Find ways to make your home cooler-such as installing awnings, shade cloths or external blinds on the sides of the house facing the sun. Dark metal shutters and dark curtains may absorb heat and make the room warmer and should be avoided. The use of pale curtains or reflective materials is better.
Coping during prolonged heat
- Keep hydrated by drinking water regularly during the day. This generally means drinking two to three litres of water a day, depending on heat, humidity and your physical activity.
- If your doctor normally restricts your fluid intake, check how much to drink during hot weather. Drinking too much water can also be dangerous, so monitor the colour of your urine. It is recommended that your water consumption should ensure that your urine is light yellow.
- Avoid drinking drinks with high levels of sugar, caffeine and alcohol and very cold drinks.
- Eat smaller cool meals, such as salads. Do not take additional salt tablets unless prescribed by a doctor.
- Keep yourself cool. Use wet towels or scarves, put your feet in cool water or take cool (not cold) showers. Stay indoors in cool or air-conditioned facilities-either at home or at local shopping centres, libraries and cinemas.
- Close curtains and blinds, and open windows (if there is a cool breeze blowing) to reduce heat entering your home.
- Avoid strenuous outdoor activities. If you can’t avoid outdoor activities don’t go out in the hottest part of the day, stay in the shade, drink plenty of water and wear a hat and light coloured, loose fitting clothing. Ensure infants and children do too.
- Do not leave children, adults or animals in parked vehicles, even for a short period of time.
- Keep in touch with sick or frail friends, neighbours and relatives to ensure that they are coping with the heat wave conditions.
- Watch or listen to news reports for information about the heat event or heat wave.
For more information or support during heat event or a heatwave:
- call 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) at any time
- contact your doctor, hospital or health clinic
In an emergency, call triple 000.
So you live in an area affected by cyclones?
Although there are many well-documented ways you can prepare your home or business for the storm season, one thing that is often overlooked is the impact that power outages can have on your comfort, livelihood and safety.
Power outages are an inevitable and frustrating side-effect of the storm season. You can’t charge your phone, your fridge and freezer defrost – not to mention no TV, no oven, no air conditioning, no appliances and no lights. If you own a business, you probably won’t be able to operate as usual and will face costly downtime. Make no mistake – power outages are inconvenient, uncomfortable, expensive and, sometimes, downright catastrophic.
With the knowledge that you will probably be facing power outages in the coming months, it is definitely worth considering a back-up power plan. The most important part of that plan involves purchasing or hiring a standby generator. A generator can help keep you safe, comfortable, fed and connected with the outside world.
Before you go out and buy anything, the best thing you can do is research. Head online or speak to an expert. You want to purchase a generator that is a) the right size for your property and/or needs, b) reliable and c) safe.
When it comes to using a generator safely and efficiently, here are the most important factors to keep in mind:
COMPLETE MAINS BACKUP GENERATOR
•If you intend to use a generator to power your whole home or business, it must be connected via an automatic or manual changeover switch unless it is under 3.6 kVA. Both types of switches need to be connected to your main switchboard. An automatic changeover switch starts and stops the generator automatically when power is lost or restored. A manual changeover switch, on the other hand, will need to be manually switched to the ‘generator’ position in the event of a power outage.
•A licensed electrical contractor must be engaged to install both types of switches. It cannot be stressed enough how important this is. If you don’t, you will be putting both your home/business and personal safety in jeopardy.
•It is also important to understand what size generator you will need to power your home or business facility. An easy way to establish this is to have a look at your switchboard – this will tell you the maximum AMPS of the circuit breaker and if it is single or three-phase (240 or 415 Volts). If you are unsure, please contact your electrical contractor.
•Purchasing a mains backup generator is not a cheap investment, however a number of individuals and businesses consider it a worthwhile insurance policy. The question you should ask yourself is “if I didn’t have power for a 24-hour period, what would it cost me in terms of business and customers lost?”. Then factor this cost over the expected operating life-span of the generator which can be upwards of 25 years if maintained correctly.
•If you are looking at hiring a mains backup generator, it would be advisable to have a manual changeover switch installed prior to the storm season as this will reduce your downtime.
SMALL PORTABLE GENERATOR
•If you opt to hire or buy a small portable generator, only use it to power essential equipment, such as fridges. Try to avoid opening the freezer or refrigerator once the power goes out in order to keep food fresh for longer.
•Ensure you have enough fuel for your generator and remember to turn it off should you need to refuel at any stage.
•Keep all cables and leads away from water and check that all cables are in good condition – you don’t want any fraying or damage.
•Read the manufacturer’s instructions to find out the generator’s load rating and make sure you don’t exceed it.
•Only run generators in a well-ventilated area, ideally outdoors. If you’re concerned it might be stolen, chain it securely to a post.
•So long as you follow these important safety rules and use common sense, you will have the backup you need should the power go out.
•Always be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If in doubt, seek expert advice.
The development of an innovative disaster hub that delivers real-time information on disasters to reduce public risk has resulted in Sunshine Coast Council winning a 2016 Resilient Australia Award.
The win was announced at a national awards ceremony hosted by the Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience in Melbourne last night.
Sponsored by the Federal Attorney-General’s Department and delivered in conjunction with the states and territories, the awards recognise individuals, groups or organisations that demonstrate excellence and innovation in projects that help communities to be better prepared and more disaster resilient.
The SCC Disaster Hub gathers disaster intelligence from numerous sources to improve decision making for council, first-response agencies and community members. It provides comprehensive real-time information that can be accessed from any internet-connected device before, during and after disaster events.
Director of the Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience Dr John Bates, said the hub was an exceptional initiative by Sunshine Coast Council.
“The SCC Disaster Hub brings together critical information from council and external sources and in the process builds community resilience,” Dr Bates said.
“It raises community awareness to natural hazards and risks, and provides essential information to protect Sunshine Coast communities during emergency events.
“Importantly, it is a disaster platform that can be configured to meet the needs of any council and can be used by other organisations.”
Development of the project involved consultation and collaboration between council’s disaster management and information technology teams, hydrologists, engineers, emergency services, media and members of the Sunshine Coast community.
“The SCC Disaster Hub connects council, disaster agencies and the community in the united goal of safety and preparedness before, during and after disaster events,” said Sunshine Coast Council disaster management coordinator John Gallina.
“Real-time information delivered through the hub, reduces public risk from hazards such as flash flooding, storms, cyclones, east coast lows, bushfires, earthquakes and landslides.
“It enables location specific impact assessments to be collated and communicated in minutes, delivering vital information to protect life, property and the environment.”
Launched in 2014, the hub has the ability to automatically capture and manage information. The project entered its Stage 4 development phase in July 2016 to meet the demand for even greater functionality.
A key innovation is the use of geofencing technology to produce instant disaster impact profiles for any specified location. During Tropical Cyclone Marcia in 2015 the SCC Disaster Hub received more than 293,000 page views.
Four members of the Cape Clear Fire Brigade have been awarded the Chief Officer’s Unit Citation for Courage after saving a man’s life while fighting a fast-moving grassfire in November 2014.
Brigade members Donald Coward, Neil Shiells, Jim McKay and John McNabb received the award at a lunch with CFA District 15 operations manager Brett Boatman and Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley last week.
Cape Clear Brigade Captain Michael Rowe said when the brigade members arrived at the scene of the fire in Berringa, they found an elderly man slumped by the fence of his property.
“Don put a blanket over him and used it like a shield and then he and John poured cold bottles of water on him,” Captain Rowe said.
“Neil and Jim were on the truck, they suppressed the fire as much as they could around them. Sixty foot pine trees were on fire, there were burning sheds and exploding cars… it was like a war zone.”
He said the heat was so bad that the members of the brigade were close to collapsing in the conditions as they tried to keep each other alive. They stayed under the blanket for about one and a half hours until the ambulance arrived. The fire was suppressed and the man was airlifted to hospital.
“They don’t feel they were doing anything special,” Captain Rowe said. “They just feel they were doing what they were trained to do but they were way above that.” “It’s going beyond courage, to see acts like that is pretty amazing. They are just fantastic people and great humanitarians.”
The award was kept tightly under wraps right up until the presentation, with the recipients completely unaware and only three members of the brigade informed.
BMT Design & Technology (BMT), a subsidiary of BMT Group Ltd, has supported the Aeromedical Innovation Australasia (AIA), to help assess the medical care benefits and cost implications of using Tiltrotor aircraft to provide aeromedical services to rural areas of Australia.
Paul Adams, Chairman at AIA comments: “Remotely located individuals in Australia face challenges in accessing tertiary-level healthcare. As a charity, we advocate the use of cutting-edge solutions that restore equity. Tiltrotors can efficiently save hours, reduce patient movement, and minimize exposure to altitude. Cost savings can be realised by reducing the number of required operating bases, aircraft and personnel. Lives depend on this best-practice initiative.”
Working with AIA, BMT developed a highly configurable Discrete Event Simulation (DES) model using FlexSim® to fast track the evaluation of Tiltrotors and quantify the associated costs. To provide a basis for comparison, the performance of the current cohort of ambulances, helicopters and fixed wing aircraft were evaluated alongside the Tiltrotor in a variety of scenarios.
The model simulated the performance of the various response vehicles, taking into consideration parameters such as speed, range, human resource requirements and vehicle base location. Subject matter experts were consulted so that accepted aeromedical response strategies could be included within the model to accurately predict the outcomes. Key performance metrics such as time to tertiary care, vehicle/personnel utilisation and process complexity, i.e. the number of transitions and patient hand overs, were recorded for each scenario.
Unlike conventional spreadsheet based models, DES models can be customized to simulate a wide variety of aeromedical responses. Incident location, vehicle parameters and response strategy can easily be modified to trial a multitude of use cases. This approach provides rapid, cost effective analysis and facilitates risk reduced implementation, since proposed strategies can be investigated long before implementation and without the need to perform expensive and time consuming physical trials.
Aidan Depetro, Lead modelling & simulation engineer at BMT, says: “Discrete Event Simulation takes us into a new capability dimension enabling us to efficiently demonstrate and visualise concepts using practical, relatable scenarios. Importantly, once a model is constructed, it is very easy to run a multitude of hypothetical scenarios to explore the solution space and answer the emergent questions.”
Bushfires have been the most common natural disaster in New South Wales over the past decade, according to a study published in Nature’s Scientific Reports.
The study, the first of its kind, looked at disaster declarations in local government areas (LGAs). Identified were 207 disasters that affected the state between 2004 and 2014. Bushfires were the most common, responsible for 108 disaster declarations, followed by storms (55) and floods (44).
By looking at where disasters were declared, the study identified a “hotspot” in northern New South Wales, which includes some of the state’s most disadvantaged communities.
There’s nothing natural about a disaster
Disasters are a regular part of life for communities across the globe. So far in 2016, disasters have cost US$71 billion and claimed some 6,000 lives. Globally, the number and cost of disasters is rising.
Australia has a long history of natural disasters, from catastrophic bushfires to flooding rains. Many people are asking whether such disasters are becoming more frequent, and what we can do to better prevent and prepare for them.
Despite the way we talk about them, fires, floods and storms are not inherently natural disasters. Though they may threaten social systems or the environment, they are more accurately classified as natural hazards.
A disaster occurs when a natural hazard overwhelms a social system’s capacity to cope and respond. Instead, disasters require many agencies and a coordinated response. Many factors such as vulnerability, resilience and population density influence a how a community copes with hazards.
What types of disasters are most common in NSW?
Using data onlocal government areas (LGAs) involved in Natural Disaster Declarations the study examined three types of sudden hazards – bushfires, floods and storms and found that LGAs in New South Wales were involved in disaster declarations on 905 separate occasions.
Across the state, 27 LGAs experienced no disaster declarations. All of these were located within the Greater Metropolitan Region around Sydney. The highest numbers of disasters declared were in Clarence Valley (21), Richmond Valley (16), Narrabri (15) and Nambucca (15).
While bushfires were the most commonly occurring type of disaster event, floods affected the highest number of LGAs. Bushfire and storm disasters were most common in 2012-13, and floods in 2010-11. By analysing the data, the study found a cluster or hotspot in the state’s north east. LGAs here were much more frequently involved in disaster declarations than elsewhere.
What can we do?
The overlap of disadvantage and disaster declarations presents a challenge to communities, disaster managers and governments. Increased funding to address social disadvantage in these communities may increase resilience to natural hazards, preventing them from becoming disasters.
Even Sydney, where all of the LGAs with no disasters were found, shouldn’t become complacent. Areas with less experience of hazards have lower awareness of the risks, and respond less effectively as a result. So even though metropolitan areas are typically better off, if a disaster were to occur, the population here would likely be less prepared to cope with the impacts.
Community outreach and education programs may help increase general awareness of the risks and help communities become better prepared. Similarly, more training and deploying emergency services personnel to disasters elsewhere could help gain insight and experiences which can be brought home.
The 2011 Queensland floods demonstrated the need for better education, risk communication and community awareness.
With flood disasters the most widespread across NSW, it would be prudent to focus on educating communities about floods to increase resilience and help them cope. Increasing resources for the State Emergency Service will also allow for more effective planning, mitigation and response strategies to be developed and implemented.
The damage bill from recent flooding across NSW topped A$500 million. The Bureau of Meteorology has predicted an above-average 2016-17 cyclone season. It is an apt time to pause and reflect on what drives people’s understanding of disaster risk and community resilience.