How to prepare an emergency kit for the Cairns Region

by Feb 25, 2021Preparation


Identifying and understanding the disaster risks in the Cairns region will help you identify what to put in your emergency kit and how long it has to last.  The Cairns area includes areas from Innisfail to Cooktown including Babinda, Port Douglas, Mossman, Daintree, Kuranda and surround towns.  Each region has disasters in common with some being unique to that area.  The Cairns region is divided by a mountain range with low lying areas along the coast and the table lands which would have different disaster risks.  If you move to a different area your kit will have to be amended.

To find out more about your suburb you can talk to the neighbours, visit your local government website or council office to check out flood and tsunami inundations maps.  To best work out what to put into your kit you need to consider the following.

What are the disaster risks in the Cairns region?

  • How do the disasters affect what you put in your emergency kit?
  • How does this affect your disaster plan?
  • Where can I find out more information?

You can download a printable comprehensive list of  items that go in emergency each kit by clicking here.

What are the disaster risks in the Cairns region?

Cyclones – the cyclone season runs from November to April but they may form later depending on the season.  They rate from Cat 1 to Cat 5 with Cat 1 the weakest and Cat 5 catastrophic.  In the last 123 years Cairns has been affected by 53 cyclones.  The biggest in recent times was Cyclone Yasi 3 February 2011 crossing new Mission Beach as Cat 5.  There have been destructive cyclones in history with large areas damaged and deaths but this was before cyclone regulations came into effect.

Flash Flooding –Flash flooding occurs quickly after heavy rain from storms, tropical low or cyclone causing low lying areas quickly fill up with water.  Like a lot of coast towns in north Queensland they are fairly flat so drainage is reduced.  Cairns can get some heavy rain was it is in the monsoonal flow for a good part of the wet season.

Flooding from rivers breaking their banks and flowing over low lying ground.  For example, Trinity Inlet can have flood problems from the streams flowing into it.  And the Barron River can have some major flooding after heavy rain.

Flooding from dam overflow or release.  The main dam that poses a risk is Copperlode Falls Dam.  There is a disaster plan for the dam and maps can be found on the web showing the areas of risk if an overflow or breach should occur.  Redlynch Valley is a prime risk area.  See your local council website for local flood maps.

Storm Surge, a rise in wave heights and sea level in cyclones and severe storms.  Caused by strong winds pushing water ashore.  The amount of flooding depends on the tide level (high or low), the height of the storm surge and height of the land in the area.  Storm surge maps are available at your local council office.

King tides, extra high tides that usually happen a few times at the start of each year.  Low lying areas have inundation of sea water at the high tide.

Tsunami, a series of waves which sudden form from an up lifting of the sea floor.  The biggest event in memory was the Boxing Day tsunami 2004, which did not affect the region but it put the planet on alert.  There are often Tsunami warnings when there are earthquakes in the Pacific Ocean even as far away as Chile which has causes problems in history.

Bush fires, more rural areas and residences on the hills with scrub land are the highest risk from bush fires.  During the dry season May to Nov the grass and scrub dries out and there is a high chance of fire towards the end of the season.

Earthquakes, don’t panic I’ve included this event as the region has felt very minor tremors a few times over the years.  Over the last 100 years there have been about 11 significant earthquakes within 200 km of Cairns.  There a lot of extinct volcanoes and craters on the tablelands with some lakes being in craters.  Strong earthquakes are rare with the biggest being in 1896 (4.3mag) felt in Cairns, Mareeba and Port Douglas.

Landslips, the hills in and around Cairns can develop landslides after heavy rain.  The Karanda Range and Gillies can have landslip or rock falls after heavy rain.  In 1951 there was a large landslip which buried 10km of the Captain Cook Highway in debris.

Tornadoes, unstable weather, tropical lows or cyclones can generator tornadoes.  There have a been a few in the region mostly falling over the bush or the sea as water spouts.  Some Townsville suburbs were affected by a mini tornado on the 19 May 2012 causing damage and cutting the power to 1000’s of homes.

Diseases such as Ross River Virus and Dengue Fever are both spread by mosquitos which breed in the stationary water around your home.  Melioidosis is a bacteria found deeper in the soil that comes to the surface in flood water and muddy soils, it is common in tropical areas.  These diseases can require hospitalisation and you should be vigilant to prevent infection.



Emergency Kit


How do the disasters affect what you put in your emergency kit?

Cairns might be a big city but with the low-lying areas, rivers, and creeks areas do get cut off for a day or so.  But the biggest reason for you to have 3 to 7 days of food and water in your kit is the supply routes from down south can be cut off by flooded creeks, marshlands or fallen trees (Cyclone Yasi).  Being a big city, it doesn’t take long for the shelves to be striped bare especially when the word cyclone is said.

The smaller towns such as Daintree and Cooktown will have the same problems, they will have fewer alternate shops to access resources when the supermarkets are empty.  So, by preparing your emergency kit before the emergency you have a better chance of getting the food you want.   The highway between Cairns and Ingham is often cut during heavy rain periods.  There are inland access roads via the Gregory Highway but that can be cut off too in big events.

Areas that are low lying or are easily cut off need to have an evacuation plan and an evacuation kit.  If you are not able to evacuate then you need to have a plan to look after yourself until emergency services can get to you, this may be hours or days depending on your location and situation.

Your emergency kit needs to be in a water proof container/s.  With cyclone damage to your home or flooding the kit will be exposed to water.  For a list of contents for each emergency kit click here.

Don’t under estimate the severity of a disaster when warnings are given.  I often here it’s just a cat 1 cyclone what damage can it do.  Being complacent is risking the lives of your family, yourself and the rescuers that are trying to save you.  With that you might be cut off where emergency services can’t get to you in time.  Emergency helicopter can’t take off in bad weather or strong winds.



How do this affect your disaster plan?

Knowing your disasters will help you decide what to do before, during and after the event. Do you look at your old house in low lying land near the river and say I will evacuate to my parents house where it is safer.

Your plan should also include listening to the local radio station and taking the advice from the warnings given by the authorities. If you choose to ignore the advice (such as order to evacuate) you may be left to look after yourself for quite some time.


Knowing the disaster risks of the Cairns area will make it easier to set up your emergency kit and you’ll have less stress before, during and after and event.  Don’t forget to download your free set of checklists here.

Develop your emergency kit each week, check it regularly for old or missing items and ensure everyone in the house knows where it is in the event of a disaster.

Further information can be found below





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