6 ways you can prepare for the on-coming heatwave

By Angela Heathcote | January 19, 2018

Australian Geographic spoke with expert heatwave risk management experts to determine what you can do to beat the heat over the next week.

MOST OF SOUTH-EAST Australia is gearing up for what’s predicted to be a sweltering five day heatwave, according to the Bureau of Meteorology, and fire-fighters are on high alert.

Weather risk management experts Andrew Gissing and Lucinda Coates from Risk Frontiers say that when the heatwave hits, it’s important to avoid complacency and have a well thought out plan.

Keep up to date with extreme weather warnings

The best way to stay informed about extreme weather events like heatwaves is to monitor the Bureau of Meteorology page.

“It’s basically a continually running series of maps of colour-coded heatwave severity for the previous two three-day periods, and forecast for the next five three-day periods,” Lucinda and Andrew tell Australian Geographic.

See more: The worst bushfires in Australia’s history

Don’t go outside

While on a typical hot Aussie day the beach may beckon, it’s advised that you stay inside if possible.

“Health authorities advise to stay inside, close curtains and blinds, and use cooling. We know from our research that some people are hesitant to utilise air conditioners. If air conditioners are available and someone is vulnerable such as the elderly, ill or very young it is strongly suggested that they are used,” they say.

Keeping cool without the air conditioner

If you stay up to date with extreme weather forecasts there’s more chance for you to prepare.

“When you know the next day will be hot, first thing in the morning roll down the shutters/ blinds and keep them down during the day,” Andrew and Lucinda say.

“Prepare by having ice in the fridge and drink cool water throughout the day.

“If your house is just too hot, plan to go out early to a library, shopping mall or similar where there is air conditioning and plan activities to stay there during the day. If you don’t have transport utilise a community transport provider.”

Look out for people most vulnerable to the effects of a heatwave

According to Andrew and Lucinda, the most at risk people are those who are exposed to the elements while working, as well as those working in poorly ventilated areas.

They added, however, that being old or very young makes you more vulnerable than anyone else to the heat.

“Increasingly, the elderly are relatively much more at risk from extreme heat than those engaged in any particular profession or in recreational activities.

“This is likely to be an increasingly important factor with an aging population in Australia and, if global mean temperatures increase as projected, it is probably that heatwaves will increase in frequency and in intensity.”

And the researchers predict that these groups of people will become for vulnerable as temperatures continue to rise.  

“Reducing future impacts of extreme heat will be especially challenging as many of the most vulnerable groups represent those sectors of society most marginalized, lacking resources and difficult to reach.”

See more: This is why Aussie ‘firehawk’ raptors are spreading bushfires

Fireproofing your home

According to the researchers, there are a few simple ways you can reduce the risk of bushfire around your property.

“You can reduce bushfire risk around your property through simple measures such as clearing leaf litter from their gutters, keeping vegetation trimmed and at a distance away from the house and keeping flammable items such as gas bottles away.”

Don’t take risks

Andrew and Lucinda say it’s important to be aware of whether your house is considered ‘at-risk’.

“Those areas that are located next to or close to the interface with bushland, forests or grasslands are most at-risk. Buildings are also at-risk of ember attack including those located hundreds of metres from the direct interface. Bushfire embers can travel large distances ahead of a fire front.”

And having a bushfire evacuation plan is life-saving.

“When bushfire weather is predicted make a plan about what you will do. Leaving your property early to shelter somewhere safe is always considered the safest option. This means leaving the evening before fire danger is forecast.

“Most fatalities during the 2009 Black Saturday Fires occurred where people attempted to shelter in their homes. Often it is found that people ignore warnings to leave early instead waiting to see the fire before evacuating. Such behaviour could easily turn deadly.

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