How to prepare an emergency kit for the Townsville region

Feb 3, 2021

 

Identifying and understanding the disaster risks in the Townsville region will help you identify what to put in your emergency kit and how long the kit has to last.  The Townsville region includes areas around Ingham, Ayr, Home Hill, Giru, and the northern beaches of Bluewater, Rollingstone.  Each region has disasters in common with some being unique to that area.  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 neighbors, 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 Townsville 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 each kit by clicking here.

What are the disaster risks in the Townsville 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.

Flash Flooding –Flash flooding occurs quickly after heavy rain from storms, tropical low or cyclone causing low lying areas quickly fill up with water.  The biggest event I remember in Townsville’s history was January 1998 floods, a tropical low left from an ex cyclone sat over Townsville dumping 335mm of rain from 6pm to midnight and then another 236mm of rain over the next 3 hours.  There were a lot of home flooded, the emergency services were drive flood boats in the main streets evacuating and rescuing people.

Flooding from rivers breaking their banks and flowing over low lying ground.  For example, Ingham township floods when the Herbert River reaches a certain height.  The Herbert River and the Burdekin River have huge areas of land draining into the river (river catchment) so it could rain heavily behind Paluma and rise the Burdekin at Ayr a few days later.  The Haughton River can flood Giru at times, sometimes multiple times in one season.

Flooding from poor drainage.  Low flat terrain does not drain well, many flat coastal towns drainage system can’t cope with heavy monsoonal rain.   The whole town may not be affected such as Townsville some areas flood more often than other areas.

Flooding from dam overflow or release.  The two dams that come to mind in the Townsville region are the Ross River Dam and the Burdekin Dam.  Ross River Dam is a smaller dam and has release gates to reduce the load on the dam wall.  The February 2019 rain event saw over 2m of rain fall over 10 days in the dam catchment resulting in the dam reached 229%.  The gates were partly open (to prevent suburb flooding) earlier to release the load but the inflows where greater than the dam release.  So, when the dam reached the height of 229% and it was still raining the gates were automatically fully opened to prevent water going over other areas of the dam wall.  The full opening of the gates resulted flooding some Townsville suburbs.  There were public warnings this was going to happen, giving the residents time to pack up and evacuate.

The Burdekin dam is huge holding 1 859 000 megalitres when full.  The dam wall is 876m long and doesn’t have release gates.   When it overflows there can be 10m or more of water going over the wall in heavy rain events.  During large flooding events the Burdekin River breaks it’s banks near Home Hill flooding areas of the town.

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 such as South Townsville 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.  The small quake has been elsewhere in the region (south of Ayr) and felt through the region.  The vibrations felt were more like a train going over a bridge than disastrous.

Landslips, the hills in and around Townsville can develop land slides after heavy rain.  Mount Stuart, Castlehill and Mount Louisa have had slips before.

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?

 Townsville 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 too. 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 Ingham and Ayr 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 Townsville and Ingham is often cut during heavy rain periods.

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 (evacuate) you may be left to look after yourself are quite some time.

Summary

Knowing the disaster risks of the Townsville 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

http://disaster.townsville.qld.gov.au/

 https://www.hinchinbrook.qld.gov.au/community-environment/disaster-and-emergency-information/

 https://disaster.burdekin.qld.gov.au/

 http://www.bom.gov.au/cyclone/tropical-cyclone-knowledge-centre/understanding/tc-info/

 

 

 

 

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