ACT News

Residents urged to prepare more for extreme weather

Too many Canberra residents are failing to take simple steps to safeguard their families and properties against storms and floods, the head of ACT State Emergency Services says.

Launching a new interactive website to help Canberra residents prepare for bushfires, storms and floods, Environment Minister Greg Hunt also emphasised the role of personal responsibility in dealing with extreme weather.

ACT SES chief officer Tony Graham said of the about 2200 requests for help volunteers attended each year, anecdotal evidence suggested about half of the damage could have prevented by householders being better prepared.

''There are certainly a large number of properties where it didn't matter what preparations you had done, the severity of the storm was always going to cause the damage,'' he said.

''[But] the more you do to prepare before a natural hazard event the better you're going to be.''

ACT First, which is not yet live, was developed by Green Cross Australia, a Queensland-based not-for-profit group, with funding from the Natural Disaster Resilience Program through the Attorney-General's Department and ACT government.

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Mr Graham said failing to clear property gutters and trim dead limbs from trees were probably the most common mistakes that resulted in property damage.

Mr Hunt said the work of Green Cross was about saving lives and empowering people, not making them dependent on others.

Mr Hunt, who last month played down the idea that increased bushfires intensity was linked to climate change, thanked volunteer firefighters for their efforts, saying the recent NSW bushfires could have been much more devastating if residents had not taken action to look after themselves.

''What we've also seen is a tremendous story of self-reliance and self-responsibility … as bad as fires have been, as bad as the tragic outcomes have been, by all rights and accounts we could have expected a much worse situation in terms of human tragedy,'' he said.

Mr Graham said elderly people were sometimes unable to do the tasks needed to prepare for extreme weather and some could not afford to pay someone to do the maintenance. He urged the public to help their family and neighbours prepare for bad weather.

''It's absolutely heartbreaking to go to a home where you see an older couple, and you see water running down the inside of their walls destroying their carpet and furniture, and you just know there's nothing they personally could have done about it,'' he said.

He said it was frustrating that people who were fit and able called the SES to tackle minor problems caused by extreme weather without attempting to fix them themselves.

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