A safe and accessible city

In case of an emergency: How to be ready if Sydney stops

From heatwaves to cyber-attacks, Sydney faces a range of risks. Meet City of Sydney staff preparing for the worst and learn how to get your family ready.

Emergency Preparedness Week Hero Image

Sydney’s ability to bounce back from acute shocks and chronic stresses all depends on how well we plan and prepare.

Meet the people working to prepare our city for the worst and use the Get Prepared app co-created by Australian Red Cross and IAG to plan for yourself and your family.

Heatwaves, storms and emergencies in the city

The City of Sydney’s emergency planning manager Ross Edwards says heatwaves and severe storms are some of our biggest threats.

He works with emergency services and major properties such as the Opera House and ICC Sydney to prepare for emergencies.

“In an urban area, heatwaves kill more people each year than any other natural hazard. Children, older people and vulnerable communities, such as people who experience homelessness, are most at risk,” he said.

“Severe storms are another major threat in the city. They can damage our public spaces, homes and workplaces, cause power outages and impair roads and railways. “Engineering emergencies are also becoming more frequent due to unprecedented levels of construction.”

City of Sydney Emergency Planning Manager, Ross Edwards
City of Sydney Emergency Planning Manager, Ross Edwards

How we help you get ready for emergencies

Ross Edwards and his team bring together emergency services in the area, put recovery plans in place, and work with major organisations.

As our state’s financial and government hub, an emergency in the city centre can have a state-wide impact. Getting the word out in an emergency is a crucial part of the job.

They also work with Sydney’s chief resilience officer, Beck Dawson, who heads the collaboration of metropolitan Sydney councils, Resilient Sydney.

Beck Dawson works on getting Sydneysiders connected with each other and ensuring everybody has an emergency plan.

She’s also focused on the ‘big picture’ – addressing growing inequality, such as transport and infrastructural differences across Sydney, and getting ready for the effects of climate change.

“In a city like New York, one government is responsible for all facets of city planning. In Sydney, we need a hundred organisations to do the same job. From government to individuals, it’s essential we know each other before we need to call in a favour in an emergency,” Beck says.

In developing the Resilient Sydney Strategy she consulted more than 1,000 residents, businesses, government and community organisations over 3 years. The strategy has 35 tangible actions to help Sydney adapt to global challenges.

Sydney’s chief resilience officer, Beck Dawson
Sydney’s chief resilience officer, Beck Dawson

What you can do: get prepared with a simple app

Australian Red Cross says having a social network is essential if there is a disaster.

Use the free Get Prepared smartphone app to make connections and create your personal emergency plan.

The app helps you set up a support network, work out meeting places and emergency service contacts and gives updates on hazard information.

Use the free Get Prepared smartphone app
Use the free Get Prepared smartphone app

John Richardson is the national resilience adviser at Australian Red Cross. He says get the app, swap phone numbers with neighbours, and agree on a meeting place if you’re separated from family members. Also consider how you can protect sentimental and other items if you need to re-establish your life.

Published 17 September 2019, updated 23 March 2021

More on Resilience