Respond to natural disasters

Natural disasters can impact your business without warning and in unexpected ways. If you are not currently dealing with a natural disaster, now is the time to develop your plans.

On this page

What does responding to a disaster involve?

Responding to events in a carefully planned way, as quickly as possible, ensures you and your staff remain safe and your business can take necessary steps to manage the event, recover and rebuild as efficiently as possible.

Responding to a disaster includes:

  • monitoring emergency alerts
  • post-disaster viability
  • insurance considerations
  • cleaning up and rebuilding.

Ensure you update your business continuity plan to include response actions.

Refer to your existing business continuity plan or use our template to help you develop a plan now.

Thumbnail of business continuity planning Word template

Download the business continuity plan template

This template includes sections on:

  • incident response plan
  • recovery plan.

Use this page to consider your response to a natural disaster and complete these sections of the template.

Download the business continuity planning template.

Monitoring a natural disaster situation

Get regular updates so you remain aware of all ongoing situations, incidents and emergency alerts that impact roads and services in your region.

Check emergency alerts, warnings and contacts in the lead up to, during, and after a natural disaster for updates and alerts on emerging situations and key organisations to contact.

Actions in response to a natural disaster

Depending on your industry, specific actions you may need to take will vary, but all initial responses will include:

  • ensuring the well-being and safety of yourself, staff, contractors and customers
  • assessing the impact on your business
  • contacting your insurer and bank
  • communication with authorities, advisers and stakeholders.

You can find specific industry information about natural disasters and emergencies on the Small business disaster hub, including:

Types of natural disasters

Read about how to prepare, respond, recover and communicate for these types of natural disasters:

Insurance considerations after a natural disaster

After a natural disaster, contact your insurer before you begin any clean-ups or repairs.

Your policy may be voided if you undertake work without the required assessments. An insurance assessor may also need to inspect your property before you begin cleaning.

Your insurance company may also ask you to record any damage to your business.

If it is safe to do so, record or photograph damage to your:

  • premises
  • fixtures
  • vehicles
  • stock
  • customer records
  • equipment.

Check your policy carefully as it may require you to take steps to protect the property and minimise loss—for example, placing a tarp over a broken roof or moving undamaged items to a safe and secure place.

While not all natural disasters (e.g. flood) may be covered by your insurance policy, it is still wise to have business continuity insurance that will allow you to resume trading as quickly as possible.

Insurance Council of Australia (ICA)

If you have questions about your insurance policy or need to find out who your insurer is, you can phone the ICA's disaster hotline on 1800 734 621 or visit ICA.

Legal Aid Queensland

Legal Aid Queensland can give you information and advice on getting an insurance claim paid after a natural disaster.

Read their guide to getting an insurance claim paid or the insurance claim factsheet (PDF, 206KB).

Australian Financial Complaints Authority

The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) may be able to help if you are having a dispute with your insurance company.

They offer a free service that aims to resolve disputes between small business and participating insurance companies.

Learn more about resolving disputes.

Find out what financial assistance and support is available if you have been affected by a natural disaster.

Tips for cleaning up after a natural disaster

Cleaning up after a natural disaster can feel daunting, but you are not alone. Once the area is declared safe, emergency workers, staff, and volunteers can assist, and the clean-up can be conducted rapidly.

Some tips on keeping healthy during a clean-up include:

  • making sure food is safe to eat—it may be contaminated
  • boiling water before consumption (if water supply has been contaminated)
  • wearing protective clothing including long sleeves and pants, gloves, protective shoes
  • protecting from insects, especially mosquitoes that spread disease
  • using ladders safely
  • working with others rather than alone
  • ensuring undamaged stock is in a secure location to minimise theft
  • contacting emergency services, council, and support organisations for guidance and support.

If you sell food, contact your local council to find out if you will require an environmental health inspection before you begin trading again.

Find out more about managing physical health and well-being during a clean-up.

WorkSafe provides flood and storm information including clean-up fact sheets on electrical safety, steps for planning safe clean-ups, and inducting clean-up teams.

Utility and service reconnections

Power, water, gas, internet services, and other services may take time to reconnect.

When reconnecting services:

  • always use a licensed electrician or tradesperson
  • do not attempt any reconnections yourself unless instructed to do so by emergency services
  • do not remove or try to repair gas pipework or related appliances and equipment during the clean-up process.

Get professional help with electrical and plumbing

Read Energex's information on keeping safe in severe weather, including electricity safety and reconnection.

Find an electrician from the Master Electricians Association for electrical safety tests.

Find a plumber from the Master Plumbers' Association.

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