Windows, tape and safe rooms: What you need to know about cyclone preparation (2024)

As Cyclone Jasper barrels towards far north Queensland coastal communities, social media has lit up with tips to prepare homes and businesses.

Key points:

  • If boarding windows, be careful the board does not come loose
  • Shelter in a small central room away from windows
  • Be careful of fallen power lines

Some of the advice is sound but when it comes to protecting property and lives, the ABC has consulted experts in the field.

Dr David Henderson, a research engineer from James Cook University's Cyclone Testing Station, helps us answer these questions, along with Emma Oliveri from Ergon energy, and Chair of the Local Disaster Management Group in Cairns, Mayor Terry James.

Other, localised information can also be found on Council Emergency dashboards, as well as the ABC's emergency site.

Windows, tape and safe rooms: What you need to know about cyclone preparation (1)

Should I tape my windows?

Yes, but only for water protection, or to help with the clean-up. Dr Henderson says the practice of taping windows does not increase the strength of the windows or make them any less likely to smash.

"If you really want to tape your windows, and you want to do it to help with the clean-up, use a checkerboard pattern. But it's not there to protect the window."

You can use tape and plastic to help weatherproof window seals.

Dr Henderson says some emergency services suggest taping plastic bags or sheeting around a window to help limit waterfrom entering the building.

Should I board up my windows and with what?

Yes, but only if you can make it secure on the outside.

According to Dr Henderson, cyclone shutters and debris screens are great, and a DIY version involves securing sheets of plywood. However, he cautions the board must be secure.

"You don't want to add to the debris field. It needs to be properly screwed or connected in," he says.

Windows, tape and safe rooms: What you need to know about cyclone preparation (2)

Should I keep windows open or closed?

Definitely closed.

During a cyclone, Dr Henderson says wind pushing on one side of a house can create massive positive pressure, and huge negative pressure on the other side of the house.

He says, theoretically, having a window open on the negative pressure side can "let some of those suction pressures into the house and in some cases maybe help to contribute to hold the roof down."

However, in reality he says this may not work.

"With the cyclone, the wind direction is going to change and it can change rapidly. If you have a window open or an opening like that, that window can suddenly then be on a positive face,"Dr Henderson says.

"That wind gust comes around and then it pressurises your building, and that can then blow your roof off."

What should I do inside when the cyclone is passing?

Keep away from windows and the windward wall. Shelter in a small, central room.

Dr Henderson says while modern windows are stronger, a piece of debris can shatter glass.

"You don't want to be a statistic by being a gawker looking out through the window and getting taken out by some debris or some of those shards of glass," he says.

He also suggests placing a mattress against the window to protect against broken glass.

Windows, tape and safe rooms: What you need to know about cyclone preparation (3)

What should I use sandbags for?

Flooding, tidal surges and strong rain.

As well as creating additional barriers for flooding caused from heavy rain associated with cyclones, Dr Henderson says sandbags can also reduce rain ingress.

"With intense wind and rain, wind can come in under our doors or under sliding glass windows," he says.

"If you do have an entrance door, you can put some black plastic and a line of sandbags there to hold it in place. That should help reduce the water entering in through those gaps."

Windows, tape and safe rooms: What you need to know about cyclone preparation (4)

What should I do with my appliances and electricity?

Turn off sensitive devices, leave other electrical issues to professionals, watch out for powerlines.

Emma Oliveri from Ergon energy says it can be a good idea to unplug devices such as TVs, gaming consoles and computers. Appliances such as fridges should be left running or until the power goes out.

To protect against power surges, she suggests plugging appliances into surge-protected power boards.

When venturing outside after the cyclone, Ms Oliveri advises to be extremely cautious of fallen power lines.

"They can be hidden in tree branches and other debris, and that includes the service wire that connects your home to the electricity network," she says.

"Any fallen powerline should be treated as though it's live and deadly."

Windows, tape and safe rooms: What you need to know about cyclone preparation (5)

What should I do with my car?

Put it inside a shed or car port, move it out of potential flood zones.

Dr Henderson says that putting a mattress between the garage door and the car will act as a buffer to strong winds should the door blow in.

What services should I expect to do without?

Power, internet, gas and phone reception.

Chair of the Local Disaster Management Group in Cairns, Mayor Terry James, says locals should prepare to be without all these services for several days in the wake of a cyclone.

Windows, tape and safe rooms: What you need to know about cyclone preparation (6)

What should I use inside when the cyclone is passing?

Stick to simple torches and battery-powered lights and radios.

You should be sheltering in a small room so avoid using gas burners, generators or candles. Using these items in spaces without ventilation increases the risk of fire and could lead to gas poisoning.

Keep across emergency information using a battery powered radio.

Listen to your local ABC.

Windows, tape and safe rooms: What you need to know about cyclone preparation (2024)

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