Calm in the storm: Cyclone preparedness at Loreto

It takes nerves of steel to brave a cyclone.

But you also need meticulous planning and preparedness.

At Loreto Aged Care facility, staff left nothing to chance when faced with the threat of Tropical Cyclone Kirrily.

The Category 3 system crossed the Queensland coast just north of Townsville at around 10pm on 25 January, dumping more than a metre of rain, and causing chaos over the Australia Day long weekend.

Aware that cyclones pose a significant threat to vulnerable populations, especially those in care homes, staff were well versed in the emergency procedures outlined in the facility’s evacuation folder.

Facility Manager Angela Whittingham spearheaded the operation, with the number one priority being the safety of staff and residents.

“Fortunately, we had plenty of warning so were able to make sure we stocked up on food, secured furniture and placed mattresses against windows well in advance,” she said.

“There was a generator onsite in case we lost power and I had it ready to go if needed.

“We emailed families to let them know what was happening and to reassure them we were well prepared.

“Then all that was left to do was to batten down the hatches and wait for the cyclone to hit.

“Initially it was a bit nerve wracking, but when it finally arrived it wasn’t as bad as we had anticipated.”

Despite the detailed planning, challenges arose when one resident required an ambulance.

Due to the storm’s severity, the ambulance was unable to come out until the eye of the cyclone passed. Remaining calm was paramount.

Fortunately, Angela had rallied a top team who worked through the night.

“I knew that if we remained calm the residents would remain calm, and we did regular rounds to check on everyone,” said Angela.

“A couple of them were a bit nervous with the wind whipping against their windows, but we were able to reassure them.

“The sick lady got to hospital and made a full recovery.”

By morning it was all over. Angela went outside and couldn’t believe her eyes.

“It was devastation,” she said.

“There were power lines down, trees down, fences down, rubbish everywhere.

“Looking at it I realised we had been lucky. The building itself is really solid and we had survived unscathed.

“We were over prepared as it turned out, but that’s how it needed to be.

“We had no idea how things were going to play out because the eye of a cyclone can intensify at any moment.

“Thankfully it didn’t, but the experience definitely highlights the importance of proper planning and preparedness.

“I think Loreto is ready for anything now – bring it on!”

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