‘Get to know your neighbours’: Volunteer's advice on preparing for emergencies

Helping others: Australian Red Cross volunteer Ron Withnell with the card he has dropped to his neighbours, introducing himself. Photo: Carla Hildebrandt.
Helping others: Australian Red Cross volunteer Ron Withnell with the card he has dropped to his neighbours, introducing himself. Photo: Carla Hildebrandt.

Where would your children sleep if you were involved in a car accident?

It is not a nice thought, but emergency back-up plans are something we should think about and plan for, says Australian Red Cross volunteer Ron Withnell. 

Mr Withnell, a volunteer since 1975, has encouraged the Mandurah community to reach out to their neighbours saying it could help in an emergency or the aftermath. 

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“It could be a motorcycle accident or someone dies suddenly and their children have nowhere to go for that night,” he said. 

“Collaboration starts in the street, and starts with your neighbours.”

Mr Withnell said the Australian Red Cross had a card volunteers dropped in their neighbours letterboxes to introduce themselves. 

“Your neighbours don’t have to do anything with the card, but they will know they are welcome to make contact,” he said. 

Once the flames are out, the situation has not been resolved.

Ron Withnell

Mr Withnell had introduced himself to fellow Seascapes residents and felt safe knowing he had support on his street.

One resident told him she had been evacuated twice from Preston Beach due to bushfires. 

Mr Withnell said Australian Red Cross volunteer groups helped families get back on their feet following a crisis.

“We have emergency response teams who are ready to go at a moments notice,” he said. 

“With the fires in Yarloop, we had emergency teams going out and we still have teams visiting people in the fire zones.

“We want to help and make sure they can overcome the issue.

“Once the flames are out, the situation has not been resolved.”

Mr Withnell said a team was sent to help following the Margaret River murders, in May. 

“We also had a team who went to help after the fires in Albany,” he said.

“People still have trauma and other issues going on having faced something like that.”

Australian Red Cross chief Judy Slatyer said it was important to prepare for an emergency and think about your neighbours.

"If you know there are people who live on their own, such as elderly or even an elderly couple, the only thing I could advise is check on them,” she said. 

"If you think about how you might react in an emergency and what you might need, you are already on the way to preparing.

"Planning how you would cope means you'll be less stressed if you ever have to face an emergency.”

For more information on how to prepare for an emergency, visit the Australian Red Cross website