Cyclone and storm surge preparation for primary producers

Businesses within 50km of the coastline north of Bundaberg are most at risk of cyclones, but wind and rain from weakening cyclones can affect the whole state. During a cyclone, businesses within 100m to 200m of an open shoreline are also at risk of storm tides, which combines a storm surge or rising coastal water levels with a normal high tide.

To find out your storm tide risk, you can request a coastal hazard areas property map, which shows the estimated storm tide levels for your property.

To get back to business sooner, use these 4 stages to help your business manage a natural disaster:

Top 10 tips to manage a natural disaster

Use these top 10 tips to prepare your property. For detailed steps, continue reading below.

  • Tip 1

    Make a plan

    Identify your risks and plan what you will do, including evacuation plans

  • Tip 2

    Review insurances, policies and finances

    Check your insurances and finances are adequate to cover your business

  • Tip 3

    Prepare your property

    Prepare your property, livestock and crops

  • Tip 4

    Consider alternatives

    Plan for power outages, loss of deliveries and alternate ways to operate

  • Tip 5

    Monitor the incident

    Listen to emergency alerts and updates, and follow advice

  • Tip 6

    Assess damage

    When safe to return, assess and photograph the damage and contact your insurer and bank

  • Tip 7

    Seek assistance

    Apply for financial assistance and other business support

  • Tip 8

    Connect and communicate

    Connect and communicate with staff, suppliers, customers and community

  • Tip 9

    Promote your business

    Develop marketing strategies to promote positive news or deals

  • Tip 10

    Update plans

    Consider what you've learned and update policies, plans and training

Prevent and prepare before a cyclone and storm surge

Consider what actions you can take to prevent or reduce the likely effects of an incident and prepare steps to plan for, respond to and recover from unavoidable events.

Make a plan

Develop a business continuity plan to help you prepare and resume operations sooner after a severe weather event.

Create a business continuity plan to prepare for, respond to and recover from an incident or crisis.

Steps to include in your plan:

  • identify the key events and risks most likely to occur and would have the most negative impact on your business
  • plan how to respond to key risks and incidents
  • consider long-term strategies such as
    • planting cyclone-resistant tree species as windbreaks
    • trellising systems for tropical tree crops
    • improving nursery techniques promoting better root systems
    • improving biosecurity measures post cyclone to reduce the spread of pests and disease
    • business diversification to spread risk
  • identify and record customer, supplier, insurer and emergency contacts.
  • identify and record local emergency alert and update channels
  • write an emergency evacuation plan and procedures (e.g. identify assembly points, assign roles, shutting down operations procedure)
  • conduct regular emergency drills with staff/visitors/customers and document in your emergency plan
  • create an event log to record information, decisions, actions, and 'before and after' damage photos for insurance purposes
  • write a recovery plan to document steps after an incident.

Prepare your property

When planning for an extreme weather event consider alternative ways to operate after the incident in case power, supplies, buildings, properties, roads and communications are cut off or unavailable.

Before storm season:

  • check you have adequate insurance cover
  • photograph equipment or assets to show pre-disaster condition
  • review how you will manage orders, refunds and cancellations
  • consider keeping financial reserves and emergency cash.
  • Check with your local council to access:
    • flood plans or records to see if your business could be affected and what the impact might be
    • local flood arrangements for your area
    • local disaster updates.
  • Use your local council's disaster dashboard to find information about road closures, river heights, evacuation centres, and more.
  • Check if your buildings meet cyclone standards (properties built after mid-1980s should withstand cyclonic winds) – if not, consider extra steps to protect or temporarily relocate your business.
  • Clear gutters, check wiring and fire alarms etc.
  • Clear loose equipment and vegetation around buildings and access points.
  • Remove vegetation from watercourses to reduce flooding.
  • Prepare a current inventory of livestock, infrastructure, equipment and supplies.
  • Heavily prune and harvest crops where possible (e.g. remove banana canopies).
  • Relocate livestock to higher ground and ensure they are branded or microchipped.
  • Identify and save your most valuable livestock if you can't save all.
  • Ensure you have sufficient fodder, medication and water supplies for animals.
  • Refuel and identify where to relocate equipment and vehicles.
  • Store hazardous materials safely above ground level in case of flooding.
  • Sandbag your premises for flooding.
  • Secure doors and windows with shutters, metal screens or tape on glass.
  • Plan for extended power outages by getting a generator and fuel or relocating perishable stock.
  • Ensure you have enough stock, supplies or spare parts in case your access is cut off.
  • Backup your data on external or cloud storage.
  • Save digital copies of key business documents, for example:
    • insurance
    • business registration
    • property deeds
    • key contracts
    • licences
    • certificates
    • awards.

Pack an emergency kit

Having an emergency kit handy can ensure survival, and help you return to business sooner.

  • First aid kit – check contents are current and complete
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) – for example, masks, gloves, safety glasses, hand antiseptic, disinfectant
  • Radio – portable battery powered
  • Torches and batteries
  • Spare batteries, power boards and power banks
  • USB memory sticks or flash drives
  • Computer storage (portable hard drives/data storage, backup tapes, discs)
  • Spare keys and security codes
  • Mobile phone with credit available, plus chargers (portable and car)
  • Marker pens (for temporary signs) and general stationery
  • Hazard tape
  • Utility knife
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Waterproof bags and containers for valuables
  • Tie down straps and rope
  • Cash
  • Keys for buildings, vehicles and equipment
  • Important or valuable equipment that is easily moved
  • List of current and expected visitors or customers with contact details

Respond during a cyclone and storm surge

Know where to get the most up to date information and where to get help if you need it. Always phone Triple Zero (000) in a life-threatening emergency.

  • Follow emergency services advice to shelter or evacuate.
  • If you have CCTV leave it running to capture video of potential damage for insurance purposes.
  • Activate your business continuity plan (includes emergency plan)
    • secure vehicles, equipment and supplies
    • unplug electrical equipment, shut down master electrical board and gas supply
    • collect your emergency kit
    • secure your premises
    • evacuate premises if you need to leave.
  • Communicate regular updates to staff, visitors and customers.
  • Advise customers and suppliers about your business operations and evacuation plans where relevant, including:
    • in-person to customers on your premises at the time
    • online to all other customers.
  • Use your social media accounts (if available), website or phone to advise customers and stakeholders about your business operations.

Recover after a cyclone and storm surge

It can take months or years for some businesses to fully recover from severe weather events. Having a plan to respond and recover from a severe weather event can help speed recovery. Consider deferring big decisions about your business's future until later.

Initial recovery (hours and days following event)

  • Protect yourself, your family and staff.
  • Monitor emergency broadcasts for updates.
  • Return to your premises only when safe.
  • When safe, secure dangerous debris.
  • Assess damage to livestock, crops, buildings, equipment, fences etc.
  • Record decisions and photos or videos of damage in an event log for insurance claims.
  • Learn more about clearing vegetation after a natural disaster.
  • Estimate repair, replacement or relocation costs.

Early recovery (days and weeks following event)

  • Take time out for your own wellbeing.
  • Ensure you and your staff work safely when cleaning up. Use qualified contractors for electrical, gas repairs or reconnections.

Livestock farms

Crop farming

  • Recover data and business records.
  • Repair or replace damaged systems or equipment.
  • Continue to update customers and suppliers about your business operations. Find examples of messaging for customers and suppliers.
  • Provide positive news to customers on your website and social media.
  • Post photos and videos on your social media to demonstrate when your business is back up and running.
  • Connect with your local community, neighbouring businesses and disaster recovery centres to find out how you can help your community, or how they can help you.
  • Accept volunteer and community support – people want to help and you are not alone.

Long-term recovery (months or years following event)

  • Consider how to reduce the impact of future events on operations and buildings.
  • Replace destroyed equipment, stock, records and documents.

Livestock farm recovery

Crop farm recovery

  • Answer emails promptly and thank people for support.
  • Consider how to promote your business.
  • Celebrate and let people know how you've recovered.
  • Look after your own and your staff's wellbeing and mental health.
  • Consider alternative roles or tasks for staff.
  • Stay connected to your local community, industry and neighbouring businesses.
  • Remember it's OK to accept assistance, even if you think others are worse off.
  • Record lessons learned (e.g. adequacy of insurance policies and IT, accounting and record-keeping systems).
  • Update your business continuity plan annually.
  • Coordinate routine emergency training with staff.

Communicate

Communication can be crucial before and after a severe weather event. Your staff and customers need to know if the event has impacted your business, if you will close, and when you will reopen.

Consider who your business might need to communicate with before, during and after a severe weather event. Think about how you will communicate if there are power outages.

Key stakeholders may include:

  • staff
  • customers or guests
  • clients
  • suppliers and distributors
  • banks and insurers
  • industry body or association
  • regulatory body or agency.

Before a severe weather event

Once you've received a disaster alert, use social media channels, your website and/or doorway signage to advise all stakeholders about your business operations. If possible, you should talk to your staff face to face and phone or email your key customers, clients or suppliers who may be directly impacted.

During a severe weather event

Usually staff will shelter at home during a disaster, but if your business is responsible for looking after guests or customers, make sure you advise them about how to get advice and updates (e.g. advice from authorities, updates from local ABC radio).

After a severe weather event

If available, use your social media accounts, website or phone to advise customers and stakeholders about your business operations.

  • We value all of our (customers/clients) and will keep you updated as best we can.
  • We are well prepared for events like this and have activated our response plan.
  • Our business will close from (time/date) until it is safe to return and resume operations. Please stay safe and follow emergency services advice.
  • Please stay safe and follow emergency services advice.
  • If you are in a life threatening or dangerous situation or require emergency assistance, please phone Triple Zero (000). For all other weather event updates visit (provide details).
  • Please listen to the advice of emergency authorities at all times.

Initial recovery

  • We have been following authorities' advice and plan to reopen our business as soon as it is safe to do so.
  • Our doors may be temporarily closed, but you can still buy and order online. Visit our website at (add your website address).
  • We wish all of our customers and clients a safe recovery.

Later recovery

  • We are now open for business and ready to welcome our customers back.
  • Please be patient with us as we work to resume full operations.
  • You can continue to contact us on (provide details).
  • In the meantime, please visit our website (provide website address) to place an order.

Contact your bank

  • Ask your bank about financial hardship options, for example:
    • changing loan terms
    • temporarily pausing or reducing repayments
    • deferring repayments and interest payments (all missed payments and interest will need to be repaid)
    • waiving fees and charges
    • consolidating your debt
    • finance to help cover cash flow shortages
    • deferring upcoming credit card payments
    • increasing emergency credit card limits
    • waiving early termination fees to access term deposits.
  • Provide loan details (account name and number, payment amounts) and an overview of your financial situation.
  • Request a hardship variation by using the sample letter generator from the Financial Rights Legal Centre to send to your bank.
  • Your bank must advise you within 21 days about your hardship request. If you can't negotiate a variation, you can:

Contact utility providers

  • Contact your utility providers' hardship team about electricity, gas, phone or water bill payment options.
  • Contact your insurer if you:
    • aren't sure the event is covered by insurance – you may be able to claim under your business interruption or income protection insurance
    • have lost your policy documents – your insurer will have a copy.
  • Contact the Insurance Council of Australia (phone 1800 734 621) if you have questions about your policy or don't know who your insurer is.
  • Check if your insurance policy:
    • funds clean-ups
    • requires authorisation before repairs begin
    • provides emergency or advance funds for wages or recovery activities.
  • Gather all information about the claim:
    • complete an event log
    • items to claim and when purchased
    • equipment, furniture etc. that had you've had to throw away
    • photo and/or video evidence.
  • Make a claim and resolve issues:
    • lodge claim as soon as possible – don't wait for a full damage assessment before making a claim
      • insurers must fast track a claim if you can demonstrate 'financial need' (read item 64 of the General Insurance Code of Practice) – if the insurer agrees, an advance payment must be made within 5 days
      • your insurer must inform you of their decision within 10 business days of receiving your claim
    • contact the Australian Financial Complaints Authority on 1800 931 678 if you can't reach agreement with your insurer
    • phone Legal Aid Queensland on 1300 651 188 if you need information and advice on how to get a claim paid.

Go back to Small business disaster hub for other industries and disasters.