Hail, fire and storm—coping with natural disasters in Australia

Natural disasters like bushfires and hailstorms—and the two-day smoke haze that blanketed the Melbourne skyline recently—do take their toll on the physical, emotional and psychological well-being of those affected, particularly international students who are experiencing it for the first time.

You can’t stop natural disasters from happening but you can use these handy tips and register for emergency alerts with the proper authorities and organisations, listen to the radio for live broadcasts and monitor the weather on a weekly or even daily basis.

How can you protect yourselves from hailstorms, fires and exposure to poor air quality? Here are some of the ways to keep safe:

Hailstorm protection

  • Once the storm is brewing, close the curtains to cushion the impact of hail should it ever crash through your closed window.
  • Secure loose items lying outside the house and yard, for instance, an outdoor umbrella which may be blown around by the storm.
  • Put back all gardening tools into the shed and secure the door.
  • You may volunteer to trim overhanging branches with the owner’s permission or get him/her to hire someone to do the job.
  • Have an emergency kit with flashlights, first aid kit, water, etc ready.

Fire safety

The CIC Students’ Handbook on staying safe on and off campus provides the following tips:

  • Think before you cook. Be mindful and never leave your cooking unattended.
  • Turn off appliances including heaters when not in use especially before going to bed.
  • Never turn off smoke alarms.
  • Don’t put water on a hot fire or oil! Use a fire blanket (you can purchase one from Bunnings Warehouse) Once it is safe to do so, turn off the heat and put a cover on the pan.
  • It is never a wise idea to smoke inside your house.

Protection from smoke haze

You may be far from the ongoing bushfires and are not under imminent threat but you are not immune to the smoke that gets blown in your direction from the distant raging flames. You can do the following:

  • Avoid directly inhaling the smoke by wearing the prescribed mask for bushfire smoke (such as the P2/N95) and staying indoors with all your windows and doors closed.
  • If you have a pre-existing medical condition like asthma, you may take your medication or seek medical advice from emergency hotline 000 if symptoms of an asthma attack occur or contact NURSE-ON-CALL 1300 60 60 24.
  • Reduce outdoor activity, if you are on campus, avoid going outside the building until it is time to go home.
  • Once the smoke haze is gone, open your windows and doors to bring in the fresh air and rid your room and the entire house of lingering smoke smells.

You can download the VicEmergency app—the official Victorian Government app for emergency warnings and information—on your iPhone or android—and set up a user profile and watch zones to ensure you receive official warnings and information on what’s happening around your area.

You may also check out the VicEmergency website or visit their Facebook and Twitter accounts to give you relevant alerts and updates.

More importantly, do not hesitate to speak to CIC Student Services if you need advice on how to handle your issues in relation to these catastrophes.