A good emergency survival plan includes knowing where you and your family and pets will shelter. Read below to find out more about your shelter options during a cyclone or flood.

Sheltering at home during a cyclone

Points to remember

  • Small rooms are generally stronger than large rooms
  • Central hallways might give greater protection because they are surrounded by the rest of the house
  • Rooms with few or small windows are better than those with large windows
  • Solid doors with additional securing bolts give greater security than standard doors
  • Metal screens or solid shutters give added protection against flying debris

To learn more about improving the safety of your home in the event of a cyclone, please see our Publications.

Preparing your home and shelter area before a cyclone

  • Where possible, board your windows from the outside or block them from the inside using a mattress and some strong sturdy furniture
  • Remove pictures and valuables from walls and shelving
  • Place valuables and precious items in strong water-proof garbage bags and tape up
  • Pack away all loose items into cupboards and secure cupboard doors if possible
  • Prepare your shelter area with mattresses, blankets, pillows, emergency kit with radio, items to keep everyone occupied and facilities for pets if they are sharing your shelter

Evacuation inland

If you choose to evacuate, you should leave early.

Points to remember

  • Evacuate well before strong winds affect your area
  • Allow time to secure and protect your property
  • You may need to sustain yourself and your family for a few days, so be prepared
  • Listed to radio or television broadcasts and only return when the "all clear" is given
  • Advise friends of plans and confirm your safe return

Emergency shelters


Do I need to evacuate?

• An evacuation order for a cyclone is only issued if lives may be at risk from a storm tide surge. Residents are not evacuated in the Cairns region based on wind-threat.

• If storm tide surge is not a threat and an evacuation order is not issued, you should stay home, make yourself as secure as possible and listen to the radio for updates. Your home is often the safest place.

• Three evacuation zones have been identified “Red, Orange and Yellow“ based on the likelihood of flooding from storm tide surge.

• Check your meter box for a colour-coded sticker (red, orange or yellow) or refer to the Storm Tide Evacuation maps to identify if you live in one of these zones.

(If you are outside the predicted storm surge risk zones, you will not need to evacuate. However, if you do not feel safe at home you can make pre-arrangements to stay with friends, family or neighbours during the cyclone.)

• If you are within a red, orange or yellow zone, your property is at risk of storm tide surge during a cyclone. You should prepare to evacuate when Emergency Services issue an evacuation order.

• Emergency Services will inform you. Listen to your local radio station. Street patrols and door knocking by emergency services may also occur.

• If an evacuation is called during working hours, access to your street/suburb may be restricted for ingoing traffic.

• Residents who are unable to help themselves and require evacuation may be able to register with the Cairns Regional Council's Evacuation and Recovery Register. Contact the Disaster Management Unit for more information on (07) 4044 3044.

Where to evacuate?

Family, friends or neighbours:

• Evacuees should seek pre-arranged temporary shelter with family, friends or neighbours in safer, higher places (outside the evacuation zones). Accommodation providers will advise their guests on arrangements.

• You should have a household emergency plan which documents these arrangements for any natural disaster. This plan will provide a valuable reference for whatever the emergency.

• Staff at Cairns Regional Council Disaster Management Unit are available to provide advice on completing household emergency plans by phoning 4044 3044.

Places of refuge:

• Evacuation centres are places of refuge and should only be used if you have nowhere else to go. They are not designed to protect against high winds or windborne debris. Locations will be advised if places of refuge are activated. If you have used one location before, it may not be activated for another disaster.

• Do not go to any place of refuge unless officially advised it is open.

• The Disaster Coordination Centre will publicly notify if any places of refuge are open via local ABC and commercial radio stations and on Council's website.

• Places of refuge are typically large public buildings such as halls. They are likely to be crowded, noisy and uncomfortable. There may also be long queues for toilets and to access kitchen facilities. Evacuees may have to be there for several days. Alcohol, pets and weapons are not allowed.

Avoid driving on the range roads:

• You should not try to leave the region just before, during or immediately after a cyclone event via the Kennedy Highway, Mossman-Mount Molloy Road or the Gillies Highway.

• These range roads are prone to landslips and closures. You may risk your own life and that of others by travelling these routes.

• Your emergency plan should include the most rapid route to your alternative accommodation. Do not travel more than is absolutely necessary.

 Private cyclone shelters

• Queensland does not have any mandatory requirements for installing private cyclone shelters. However, if you choose to build a private shelter, it may offer an additional level of safety.

• It is recommended that a qualified structural engineer be consulted on the options available and you will need the appropriate approvals before proceeding.

Click here for Storm Tide Evacuation Maps -