A timeline of how to prepare for disaster season

Summer in Australia means long hot days, days at the beach, balmy nights and late sunsets. But it can also bring with it bushfires, heatwaves, cyclones and floods. Like it or not, disaster season is annual, and we need to be ready. Here’s how you can prepare, no matter when you start.
Paul Harrison · 22 April 2024 · 8 minute read
An aerial photograph of a flooded suburban area in the 2010-11 Queensland floods.

The effects of climate change mean that severe weather events are becoming more pronounced and more frequent. Staying prepared and ready for these potentially ferocious events is incredibly important – and can quite frankly, be the difference between life and death.

It’s important to note that many of these disasters are a matter of if – not when. So it’s vital you prepare and plan for disaster as early as possible.

Whether you’re well prepared or are more likely to get your gear together on evacuation day, we’ve got a disaster preparedness checklist for you. Please bear in mind: this is a checklist for the tech you need to take with you to stay connected and shouldn’t be treated as a full guide on what to take in the event of a disaster. For a full disaster preparedness checklist, take a look at the emergency kit checklist from the State Emergency Service NSW.

The prepper: five weeks out

You’re already preparing for disaster season five weeks out? You’re doing great! You’ve got a lot of time up your sleeve to do stuff that will really get you prepared for the worst.

Of course, it’s important to remember that we can’t prepare for every eventuality, and sometimes things still go wrong. But staying as prepared as you can means you have the best chance of staying online and in touch with everyone from loved ones to emergency services.

These are the tasks that take the longest ahead of a disaster, and when you’re within a week or even a few hours of an evacuation order, you probably won’t have time to get it all done. If you’re the prepper reading this, you should do everything in this section and the below sections too.

Let’s go!

Download emergency services apps

First things first: these official apps will give you the most up-to-date information on what’s happening in your area, including natural disaster warnings.

Be alert to changing conditions

Subscribe to services that will alert you to weather changes, road closures and updates from other service providers in your area.

Back up your data

Store your important data, like contact information and personal photos, in the cloud using an online service. If you have an Apple or Google device, these smartphones have automatic backups to make sure your photos are always saved.

Save your emergency numbers as priorities

Store a list of essential contact numbers for your local Police, Fire, SES teams as well as friends and family on your phone and as a non-electronic, ideally waterproofed, backup. Make sure you include our dedicated disaster assistance number – 1800 888 888.

You can save these numbers in your device so they’ll appear on your Favourites tab for quick and easy access.

When you have your list of essential numbers, make sure you make a printed copy to keep in your wallet, purse or bag, and keep a version in your car as well. Power can go out for a week or longer during a disaster. Keeping a printed copy means that if your phone is out of battery and you need an important phone number, you have it handy at all times. If you really want to take it to the next level – laminate the card so it’s now waterproof. You are the prepper after all!

Consider a satellite phone or repeater device

Sometimes in a disaster, the traditional communications network can go out in your area due to infrastructure being affected. But you know what doesn’t get impacted so easily? Space. That’s why we keep satellites up there.

In rural and regional areas, a satellite phone should usually be independent of any damaged infrastructure and can operate in remote locations. If your communications are critical or if you’re in an isolated area, a satellite phone backup could come in handy. And if you only have one, make sure it’s charged and accessible in the event you do need to use it.

You can also take a look at our range of repeaters and extenders to see if one suits your needs. Legal network coverage extension devices amplify the existing network signal your mobile device receives, which extends the area that your device can work in. These devices can help you connect to the Telstra mobile network from further away than normally possible, or in areas where a signal may struggle to penetrate – such as indoors, or in hilly or dense terrain.

It’s important to note that boosters are illegal to own or operate on any network in Australia, and they can disrupt or even prevent others from making calls to emergency 000.

Get a corded phone

A cordless fixed line phone is convenient, but remember, most cordless phones rely on electric power to operate, so you may lose the use of your landline during a power outage. A corded phone draws its electricity directly from the phone line (excluding fixed line phones on nbn) and can be used during a power outage.

It’s important to remember that since the nbn provides your home phone line, it will be unavailable during a power outage. It’s best to have a mobile phone or satellite phone handy for this instance, especially in remote areas.

The just-in-case: five days out

You’ve just heard the news: there’s flooding predicted in your area this week. Or you’re in a high fire danger area and there’s a hot, windy day predicted this week. Or there’s a cyclone forming off the coast.

Whatever the type of disaster, if you’ve been provided warning and if you start now, you can prepare adequately for the worst.

You won’t have time to do some of the things you might have wanted to do five weeks ago like order T-Go repeaters or satellite phones, for example, but you can spend a bit of time running through the rest of the checklist.

If you’re the “just-in-case” planner, you should follow everything on this list and the section below.

Invest in an alternative charger

If you don’t already have one, purchase a phone charger that isn’t dependent on a power outlet. A popular choice is a ‘power bank’ battery pack that can be charged from a power outlet prior to an event and used if grid electricity is unavailable, or a portable solar panel charger or in-car charger.

Know your plug for faster phone charging

Did you know that some phones only need a few minutes on the power to speedily revive themselves? It’s called fast charging.

Modern smartphones charge differently depending on what adapter you have that plugs into the wall. Looking up the wattage your phone can charge at on the manufacturer’s website is key to getting the right info here.

Manufacturers often don’t include the highest wattage charger your phone can take in the box, so you’ll need to invest in one if you’re interested in fast charging.

Enable Wi-Fi calling

If the mobile network signal is down during a disaster, you can still use your mobile phone to make and receive calls and text messages, where there’s available Wi-Fi coverage and provided your mobile device supports Wi-Fi Calling. Wi-Fi Calling provides basic voice-calling capability on compatible devices when you’re connected to a supported Wi-Fi network and can’t connect to the Telstra mobile network.

We’ve also switched on SMS over Wi-Fi, allowing you to receive texts via your fixed line connection when you’ve got Wi-Fi coverage. Here’s our FAQs on how to set it up in case you haven’t already.

The last minute: five hours out

Your phone just went off with the State Emergency Service’s evacuation order.

No matter where you heard it, it’s time to go. Here’s our checklist for the absolute essentials you need to know.

Charge your phone. Right now.

Every second matters when you need power. Anyone looking to charge their phone before heading out of the house knows this. And if you got a text recommending evacuation, you might not know when you’ll be near a working power point again.

Charge your phone on the highest wattage charger you can find in the house for as long as you can. Don’t forget to turn it on loud while you do this so you can hear calls and messages come through.

When you’re ready to leave, take the phone and the charger. You might not be able to find another one of these in a hurry if you’re evacuated.

Use local information sources

Online, social media accounts for your local authorities and emergency services will share crucial information. Your local broadcaster will also share information over the radio – make sure you have a battery-powered radio or car radio to listen in on.

Below we’ve provided a short list of some official information sources from various federal, state and territory governments that you should read if you’re preparing yourself and your home against disaster.

Government agencies for emergency response information:

Other critical information websites:


By Paul Harrison

National Emergency Response Manager

Paul Harrison is Telstra’s National Emergency Response Manager and is a critical member of Telstra’s Major Incident Management and Global Operations Team, preparing, monitoring and responding to emergency threats and impact on Telstra networks. Paul’s career with Telstra began 35 years ago as an apprentice technician for the then Telecom, in his home town of Ballarat. Since that time, Paul’s career has provided him the great opportunity to have worked in and across a variety of Customer facing, Network Operations and Leadership roles. The wealth of knowledge and experience accumulated both within Telstra and through wider industry engagements have provided the foundation, knowledge, and leadership required in the highly challenging role of National Emergency Response Manager. Things that motivate Paul outside of work include motorcycles, music, and his love of exploring the most remote parts of Australia in his 4WD with his family.

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