September 1, 2021

Lockdown: an opportunity to stormproof your home

By Mark Allerton

Hunters Hill State Emergency Service

This mild and gentle winter is starting to shift towards the spring storm season. With more time at home, you can help protect yourself and your family, and prevent household damage and repair bills by some simple operations around the house.

A check of your home and yard can help catch the problems early. Imagine what might happen in heavy rain and wind. Are your doors and windows secure? Scan your roof, even with binoculars, for loose tiles, or corroded corrugated iron.  Are there dead or leafless branches or hedges overhanging your house, deck or driveway? Is there a trampoline, garden furniture or other objects that can be blown about?

Blocked gutters and drains tend to be the main cause of water leaks and ceiling damage in the Hunters Hill area. Water creates its own pathways, and if gutters or downpipes are clogged with leaves and dust, it can escape into the house. In a heavy storm this can quickly lead to serious damage. The same thing goes for terraces, patios, and areas outside your home: if drains or overflow outlets are blocked (e.g., by leaves, rubbish and even pot plants), water will find other means of escape, possibly back into your house. Solving this is easy, compared to the trouble and cost of repairs. After you have cleared them, use the garden hose to ensure the drains, gutters and downpipes are doing their job.

Consider having the gutters cleaned by a professional contractor each year before the storm season. If you are doing it yourself, put on your strong shoes, gloves and even a helmet. And although a ladder appears simple and easy to use, be careful. It needs to be securely locked and on a firm surface, with someone below to steady it and check for danger. When you are up the ladder, you will need to be stable and flexible if clearing the gutter or sawing a branch, with three secure points of contact as your base. The risk of overbalancing if you reach too far, or if caught by surprise, can easily lead to an ambulance ride to hospital, or worse.

As John Williamson sang, Australians love living amongst the gum trees. However, when these are close to houses, they can break branches in heavy wind and storms, causing significant roof and window damage, as well as wrecking fences and garden furniture.  Liquid ambers, and other deciduous trees that grow large leaves on softwood branches, can also turn into windmills and sails in stormy weather, endangering your property and the lives of your loved ones. State Emergency Service volunteers called to these scenes of destruction often notice that no matter how large a branch or tree looks up in the air, it is much larger on the ground, or in the middle of a roof. Prevent this by checking the trees around your house for dead or heavy overhanging branches, and considering what might happen in a storm.  The expense of having a professional resolve a problem in advance is much less than a post-storm clean up, followed by home repairs.

As blackouts and worse are not uncommon in stormy weather, you can prepare by having an emergency kit, with a torch, portable radio, torch, spare batteries, candles, matches, important contact numbers (e.g., family, work colleagues, insurance company, SES 132 500 etc.), a first aid kit and plastic bags (for clothing/valuables) in a secure waterproof container. Do you have contact numbers for your neighbours? Have you thought of a plan if forced to evacuate? You might be glad to know that the same measures are also useful in the face of bushfire threats.

For more information, the NSW State Emergency Service has some useful tips here:


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Hunter’s Hill Council

22 Alexandra Street, Hunters Hill NSW 2110
PO Box 21, Hunters Hill NSW 2110
Tel: (02) 9879 9400
ABN: 75 570 316 011