What is a Storm?

The meteorological definition of a storm is a wind measuring 10 or higher on the Beaufort scale (a measurement that relates wind speed to observed conditions at sea or on land).  In practical terms this means a wind speed of 24.5 m/s (89 km/h, 55 mph) or more.

Extreme storms can bring heavy rain, strong wind, hail, thunder and lightning (which in turn can start wildfires).  If the weather conditions are severe enough there is even the possibility a storm could present as a tornado, waterspout or cyclone.  Depending on season and local geography, some storms can last up to a week.  Regional and seasonal severe weather phenomena can include blizzards, snowstorms, ice storms, and even dust storms.

Why storms are considered Emergencies

Severe storms can disrupt essential services and agriculture, cause major property damage, personal injury and loss of life.

Heavy Rainfall may result in destructive flooding, and is still considered a threat for people living inland. Flash flooding in urban areas, defined as a rapid rise in water levels, can occur quickly due to intense rainfall.  See Councils flooding page for more detail on that type of emergency.

High Winds can be strong enough to be dangerous to those caught in them.  Winds of 33 m/s (119km/h, 74mph) or more can destroy buildings and turn debris, such as signs, roofing material, siding and small items left outside into missiles.

Storm surge and large waves pose the greatest threat to life and property along the coast. Storm Surge is an abnormal rise of water generated by a storm's winds. The destructive power of storm surge and large battering waves can result in loss of life, buildings destroyed, beach and dune erosion and road and bridge damage along the coast. Storm surge can travel several miles inland. In estuaries and wetlands salt water intrusion endangers public health and the environment.  Storm surge is made worse when storms combine with the natural astronomical tide.

What can I do?



The National Strategy for Disaster Resilience, developed by the Council of Australian Governments, provides high-level guidance on disaster management to agencies with a role in emergency management. Foremost in the Strategy is the principle of all of society taking responsibility for preventing disasters.

In the context of Storms:

People should be aware of their own risks and should follow advice from emergency services when responding to warnings.  Visit Councils flooding information page for more information on how to prevent flooding caused by heavy rain.

Extreme weather warnings are issued by the Bureau of Meteorology

To increase community resilience, individuals should actively plan and prepare for protecting their own life and property.  Resilience is also increased by knowing and being involved in local community disaster or emergency management arrangements, and volunteer role.

Government agencies, local governments and communities
Organisations include storm risk within their Community Emergency Risk Assessment activities. This includes consideration within emergency management planning and land use planning.

Resilience is developed through land management and planning arrangements, assessment of risks, supporting individuals and communities to prepare for extreme events, and having effective education programs available.

Additional prevention tasks carried out by state and local government include:

  • Risk assessments to gain an appreciation of storm risk
  • Engaging with the community regarding storm risk
  • Working with communities to plan the management of storm risk
  • Providing emergency information and storm warnings
  • Ensuring an effective, well-coordinated response during storms
  • Helping communities to recover and learn following a storm and build their resilience to future events.

Council regularly maintains storm water infrastructure as part of routine maintenance schedules, however anyone can notify Council if they notice damaged or blocked drains or inlets.

Vulnerable people

There are many groups of potentially vulnerable people (e.g. older adults, people with disabilities, people living in poverty) whose unique needs may not accounted for in storm emergency plans.

Vulnerable people require more attention when they are experiencing an Emergency situation compared to everyone else.  Planning to help friends and relatives who are considered vulnerable contributes greatly to emergency resilience in communities. 

Private Industry and businesses

Businesses play a fundamental role in supporting a community’s resilience to disasters. They provide resources, expertise and essential services on which the community may depend.   Businesses, including critical infrastructure providers, can also make a contribution by understanding the risks that they face and ensuring that they are able to continue providing services during or soon after a disaster.

Businesses should plan for the risk of disruption, and ensure arrangements are in place to maintain critical services where required.

The links below are designed to help businesses plan for emergency situations:

Business Continuity plans – A quick guide to impact analysis and plan development
Plan and prepare – State Government advice on how to protect your business