What to do after a natural disaster
How to manage after a bushfire, storm or
It can be hard to know what to do when you go through a natural
disaster. Follow these steps when you begin to
Contact your insurer, broker
Deal directly with your insurer or an authorised, trusted
insurance broker or financial adviser. They'll check your policy
covers you for the event that has happened.
Your insurer, insurance broker or financial adviser will have
your policy information, so don't worry if you've lost your
insurance documents. Ask them to explain the claim process and what
you need to do.
If you need emergency accommodation, ask if your insurer can
Legal Aid NSW has information on
what to do after a natural disaster, including how to deal with
Important: Current Australian bushfires
We understand insurers are working quickly to process
claims. Your insurer may be able to provide emergency accommodation
and financial support as part of your claim.
Assess the damage to your
When you make an insurance claim, your insurer will arrange for
someone to come and assess the damage to your property. An assessor
will gather information to see whether you are covered under your
During a natural disaster, an insurer may take time to send
someone to review your claim. While you are waiting, take photos
and make a list of all the damage, including as much detail as
possible. Keep receipts if you need to buy essential items like
food or bedding.
Property clean up and
Don't start cleaning up until it's safe to do so. Check for any
dangers, for example, asbestos or unsafe electrical wiring and
equipment, and always avoid floodwaters. Keep track of what is
happening in your area, in case there is a coordinated clean up
Check with your insurer before making any repairs to your
property. Your insurer may need to authorise repairs and
tradespeople before they happen.
Finalise your insurance
Your insurer may offer to:
- handle repair or replacement of your home, or
- offer cash to settle your claim
Cash settlements mean you have to manage the repair or rebuild
process yourself, and you might be left out of pocket. The National
Debt Helpline explains what to check before settling your bushfire
If you settle your claim within a month of the event, you have
up to a year to get it reassessed. You may do this if you think the
assessment was not complete or accurate. See the Insurance
Code of Practice for more information.
Get help if you need it
Asking for help can make the recovery process a lot
easier. There's special support available to help you deal with the
Financial help after a natural disaster
If you're having financial difficulty, these services can help
- Your insurer - they may fast-track your claim
or give you an advance payment within five business days. They will
deduct this payment from your total claim.
- Government payments and support services - see
in an emergency on the Department of Human Services
- Your credit provider - if you're finding it
hard to make loan or credit card repayments, ask your credit provider for a hardship
- Financial counselling - if you're struggling
with money, a free financial counsellor can help you
get back on track.
- Crisis support - there are services to help
you with food, housing and bills in a crisis, as well as emotional
support. See urgent money help.
Legal help after a natural disaster
If you have problems with your insurer or repairer, or need
to negotiate with credit providers, free legal
services throughout Australia can help.
Law Service provides free legal advice and support.
Some states have legal hotlines to call for help during a
- NSW - Disaster Response Hotline 1800 801 529
- Victoria - Disaster Legal Help 1800 113 432
- Queensland - Bushfire Legal Help 1300 004 924
Support to help you cope with recovery
A natural disaster can impact your emotional health. If you're
not coping and need help, please speak to:
The Australian Red Cross has resources to
help you recover from a natural disaster. These include coping
strategies for adults and children.
Recovering from a natural disaster can feel
overwhelming. Taking it one step at a time, getting help and
seeking advice can make the path to recovery easier.
Last updated: 16 Jan 2020