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Australian Red Cross launches app to help at-risk communities prepare for natural disasters

Catherine Marciniak, Saturday April 14, 2018 - 08:31 EST
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Early users of the Get Prepared APP say that knowing what is happening for loved ones, children and the pets is the most important thing during an emergency. - ABC

As climatologists warn of an , the Australian Red Cross has developed a new way to help people prepare for natural disasters.

The Get Prepared mobile phone app helps identify support people during a disaster, create a to-do list that will help to keep loved ones safe, and develop an action plan to protect the things that matter most.

"We are seeing more intense disasters and I think they're having more complex and bigger impacts on communities," Jacqui Pringle, Emergency Services Manager of the Australian Red Cross, said.

"I don't think people have prepared for those and that's what we're trying to talk to people about — [how] to prepare beforehand to lessen some of those impacts."

During the development phase of the app the Red Cross asked residents of disaster-prone communities what was most important to them.

"The number one driver in people wanting to prepare for an emergency is to keep track of loved ones, including their pets," Ms Pringle said.

"In terms of recovering, what we see from communities is less about the physical things and more about the intangible things like your routine, like your relationships.

"It's that sense of 'I'm back to a place that I consider normal'."

Experiencing a disaster doesn't mean we are prepared

One of the surprise discoveries of the research is that people who have lived through natural disasters are not necessarily as prepared as they could be for the next one.

"There was an assumption that if you've been through an emergency you're more than likely to have taken action to prepare [for another], but we found that wasn't the case," Ms Pringle said.

"People were more likely to have thought about preparing and saw the value in preparing for an emergency, but the action wasn't always there.

"There's a gap between 'it's important, but have I done it?'"

This was the case for Linda Sammon, whose family has lived at Condong on the Tweed River in northern NSW for more than 30 years.

It is one of the most flood-prone areas in Australia, and the Sammons' backyard and basement is regularly inundated.

They thought they were prepared until .

"It usually comes to the second top step — that's the highest it's ever been — and next minute it's coming through the floorboards," Ms Sammon said.

"It was scary, really scary, the fact that it came through the house."

The Sammons lost irreplaceable photos and documents, and had no evacuation plan.

Preparing your disaster plan

Marie Rogers, a volunteer with the Australian Red Cross, runs face-to-face sessions with people in disaster prone areas in an effort to mentally and physically prepare them for future disasters.

"There are studies that show that people actually recover faster after an emergency if they've planned," Ms Rogers said.

"If you are ready to face it, it's not a big surprise," Ms Rogers said.

"You'll still be traumatised, you'll still be stressed.

"[The app] is not going to stop that, but it will hopefully lessen the time you are traumatised."


© ABC 2018

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