The North West Star

How NRMA Insurance is helping Australians prepare for summer heatwaves

Workshop participants are provided with everything they need to complete their emergency plan, including the Get Prepared app, developed by Australian Red Cross and NRMA Insurance, a digital emergency plan companion based on Australian Red Cross' RediPlan® so you can take care of yourself, your loved ones and what's important. Photo supplied.
Workshop participants are provided with everything they need to complete their emergency plan, including the Get Prepared app, developed by Australian Red Cross and NRMA Insurance, a digital emergency plan companion based on Australian Red Cross' RediPlan® so you can take care of yourself, your loved ones and what's important. Photo supplied.
How NRMA Insurance is helping Australians prepare for summer heatwaves
How NRMA Insurance is helping Australians prepare for summer heatwaves

Australia is notorious for its blistering hot weather and dangerous heatwaves.

Climate change, however, is pushing the hazards of summer heatwaves to even greater extremes.

Heat-related fatalities are now claiming more Australian lives than any other natural disaster, including bushfires.

Heatwaves comprise three or more consecutive days of severe heat conditions and often high humidity that is unusual for the local climate.

With the increasing threat of heatwaves in Victoria and nationwide, education and awareness are crucial in minimising and preventing harm.

Fortunately, we have compiled some essential tips to help you and your loved ones best prepare for these extreme heat conditions.

Educational initiatives, such as those by NRMA Insurance, also significantly raise public awareness for such potentially catastrophic events.

These measures are designed to help Australians protect themselves from the perils of severe heat conditions, ultimately saving lives across the wider community.

Rising challenge of summer heatwaves in Victoria

The rising challenge of summer heatwaves is largely due to climate change.

This occurs when fossil fuels such as oil and coal are burned at extremely high rates.

Enormous amounts of carbon dioxide and methane are released, and these greenhouse gases trap heat from the sun in our atmosphere.

Over time, this heat builds up and causes temperatures to rise worldwide.

As a result, Victoria has seen longer and more frequent periods of summer heatwaves over recent years.

In January 2018, Bendigo experienced a record-breaking 12 consecutive days over 35 degrees, swiftly overtaking the previous 8-day record from 2014.

An extreme heatwave swept across Northern Victoria the following January during Australia's hottest-ever recorded month.

Around the country, heat-related deaths are on the rise.

More Australians are falling victim to soaring temperatures than any other natural disaster, with over 9000 people hospitalised due to extreme heat between 2012 and 2022.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports that these incidents are now spiking at over 1000 cases every three years, and these spikes are increasing with each cycle.

Beyond a detrimental effect on human health, severe weather conditions can trigger various issues in the wider community.

These are the key challenges that rising summer heatwaves pose in Victoria:

  • Health risks: Serious injury or illness that can potentially be fatal.
  • Housing quality: Many Victorian houses are not designed to withstand extreme temperatures, and expensive power bills may deter residents from cooling their homes.
  • Power supply cuts: The current electricity grid infrastructure is vulnerable to breakdown and malfunction in severe heat.
  • Transport: Local transport systems are not built to handle severe weather conditions, making them susceptible to breakdowns.
  • Nature: Native wildlife can be devastated by extreme heat, particularly in urban areas with limited space for animals to cool down.

Heatwaves can affect anyone.

However, elderly residents, pregnant women, young children, babies, people with disabilities and those with chronic illnesses are most susceptible to serious and potentially life-threatening health problems.

They are also more likely to experience severe effects from prolonged exposure to such extreme temperatures.

Severe heat conditions can trigger:

  • Heat exhaustion.
  • Heat stroke.
  • Strokes or cardiac arrest.
  • Worsening existing medical conditions such as lung disease and other respiratory issues.

The escalating frequency and intensity of heatwaves in Victoria is concerning, with dire implications for public health, infrastructure, and the economy.

Both individuals and the wider community must take proactive measures to take care of each other and minimise its impact.

NRMA Insurance's roles in heatwave preparedness

NRMA Insurance offers a variety of resources and programs specifically curated to help Australians prepare and protect themselves from extreme heatwaves.

Reports such as the Wild Weather Tracker monitor extreme weather claims nationwide and are released after every season.

This allows people to stay informed about the latest developments and protect their communities, properties, and vehicles from the impacts of heatwaves.

NRMA Insurance has also partnered with Australian Red Cross and Lifeline to roll out Help Nation.

This is a nationwide education program focused on helping Australians understand risks in their local area, including summer heatwaves.

This allows you to prepare in advance and keep your community safe.

Help Nation also guides you through helpful checks to ensure your insurance covers you for health, property, vehicles, and more.

Essential tips for heatwave safety

As annual heat records are broken with each passing year, Victorians should expect increasing and intense heatwaves on the horizon.

It is crucial to prepare for extreme weather conditions well in advance.

Preventative measures can go a long way to save the lives of your loved ones and your local community.

The following tips are essential for heatwave safety.

Take some time to assess your current living situation and capacity to react during heat-related emergencies.

Preparation for heatwaves should include the following:

  • Learn about the potential risks and impact of heatwaves in your local area.
  • Familiarise yourself with warning signs of heat stroke, heat stress, and dehydration.
  • Assess your living situation and prepare your home to withstand heatwaves accordingly.
  • Identify your support network that can assist you before or during a heatwave. This may include family, friends or caregivers who can check in with you, arrange your home to be heatwave-safe and so on.
  • Contact your doctor about any preexisting medical conditions; determine how extreme heat may affect your health and take preventative measures.
  • Store any necessary medications in a cool and dry place.
  • Prepare supplies such as non-perishable food and important medication.

During a heatwave, make sure to:

  • Stay indoors and avoid exposure to direct heat as much as possible.
  • Turn on cooling devices such as electric fans or air conditioning.
  • Use blinds, shades, or cloth to shield the inside of your house from direct sunlight.
  • Plan your schedule to do tasks in the early morning or late evening to avoid going outdoors when it is hottest.
  • Avoid sports and strenuous physical activity, especially during peak hours of the day.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, even if you don't feel thirsty.
  • Wear light and loose-fitting clothing.
  • Cool down with cold baths, showers, and damp clothes.
  • Check in with your family, friends, and local community members to seek or provide assistance where necessary.

Preparing your home for extreme heat

Adjusting your home for extreme heat conditions can help you protect your physical well-being and property from damage.

Prepare your home to withstand summer heatwaves by the following:

  • Check fans and air conditioners are working well and get them serviced if necessary.
  • Clean or replace air conditioning filters if needed.
  • Choose curtains that can reflect heat.
  • Add shutters or shading to windows that face west. This helps manage rising temperatures in the afternoon heat.
  • Prepare a cool refuge room using air conditioning, fans, and shades in your house.
  • Install insulation in the ceiling and walls wherever possible. This helps your house manage inside temperatures in an energy-efficient way.

Community engagement and education

Community engagement and public education are critical in preparing for summer heatwaves.

This allows you to stay informed, alert, and ready to respond to potential weather crises.

Research shows that nearly half of all Australians (48 per cent) feel unprepared to face extreme weather conditions.

One in three are unaware of extreme weather risks in their local area.

NRMA Insurance commits to bridging this awareness gap surrounding heatwave risks.

The Help Nation program champions community education through partnerships, awareness campaigns, and online resources available to the general public.

For example, you can discover practical information on emergency supplies through their Emergency Kit Checklist.

Check out the Lifeline Support Toolkit for tips on managing stress and anxiety through extreme weather crises.

It is more important than ever for Victorians to remain alert and responsive as heatwaves surge across the country.

Tap into NRMA Insurance's Help Nation resources and stay informed with the latest extreme weather news.

Awareness will make a significant difference in keeping you and your loved ones safe in the coming summers.

This information is of a general nature only and should not be regarded as specific to any particular situation. Readers are encouraged to seek appropriate professional advice based on their personal circumstances.