CATHOLIC relief agencies are gearing up for another summer of extreme hazards after the Bureau of Meteorology changed its outlook to a “La Nina Alert”.
“We need to be better prepared at local levels for climate emergencies,” Catholic Social Services Australia chief executive officer Dr Ursula Stephens said.
“This summer looks like one of cyclones and storms, so being prepared is important.”
The BoM’s latest advice is that the likelihood of a La Nina weather pattern forming this year has increased to 70 per cent, which is about three times more than usual.
A La Nina event usually produces above average rainfall in spring, particularly across eastern, central and northern regions of Australia.
“It typically also brings cooler and cloudier days, more tropical cyclones, and an earlier onset of the first rains of the wet season across the north,” BoM manager of climate operations Dr Andrew Watkins said.
The six wettest spring periods on record for eastern Australia occurred during La Nina years.
The good news is that this will reduce the likelihood of severe bushfires in south-east Australia over summer.
However, the last significant La Nina event was in 2010-11, which was the Australia’s wettest two-year period on record, and was awash with disasters.
The 2011 Brisbane floods are etched into local memories.
Across Queensland a series of floods that impacted 75 per cent of the state, and caused mass evacuations from towns and cities, including Brisbane, Ipswich and the Lockyer Valley.
The crisis claimed 33 lives, and the Insurance Council of Australia estimated the damage at $2.38 billion.
Dr Stephens said now is the right time for Catholic parishes and communities to start practical emergency preparations for the summer of 2020, starting with a checklist:
| Are there safe and well-resourced places to take refuge.
| Do households have their emergency kits ready? Have they updated their first aid kits? Spare batteries, torch and a radio to keep up to date.
| Is there an opportunity to update first aid training and mental health first aid courses
| Is there a place that a community freezer and pantry that can be stocked for emergency food and water?
| Do individuals and agencies have their cyclone /bushfire plans updated?
| Are contact lists ready and social media groups up to date?
| Are there local residents who are vulnerable and might need assistance?
| Parishes may have a register for emergency homestay accommodation especially for people who might have pets.
In February, and as a direct response to the worst bushfire season on record, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference unveiled a new national initiative called CERA – Catholic Emergency Relief Australia – to coordinate Catholic organisations’ relief efforts following natural disasters.
CERA also distributes donation-based recovery grants with oversight from Catholic Social Services Australia.
“One of the Church’s key social teachings is about ‘subsidiarity’, which means that we empower local communities to respond to their realities as they best see fit,” Dr Stephens said in February.