“Our moment of truth” | Preparing for extreme weather


We all know the devastation extreme weather can bring, so how do we incentivise preparation? Suncorp’s Josh Cooney and Phil Slade join Suncorp Talks to discuss in part two of our extreme weather season preparation.


Catch up first: Listen to part one of Suncorp Talks’ extreme weather season preparation with Queensland SES Assistant Commissioner Andrew Short.

Back in the 1960s and 70s, it wasn't uncommon to drive without a seatbelt, perhaps because even though people heard the warnings, it wasn’t something that had ever happened to them.

It’s a phenomenon Suncorp Behavioural Economist Phil Slade uses to explain why it’s easy to put off preparing for a possible severe weather event.

And yet it’s critical to be ready ahead of time, as he also explains, because your decision making can be impaired in the moment.

"When you’re in a high stress environment, like a storm, your body goes into a state of panic," he said. 

"This is a good thing because it activates your body and helps you to get out of danger, but it means the blood drains from anything that isn’t vital including your vision and hearing. We call it situational blindness.

"By preparing, you’re training your automatic behaviours for those moments."

We try to be the first ones there, and the last to leave.

Josh Cooney, Suncorp Executive Manager Public Policy

Resilience means being able to bounce back from a disaster but it also means preparing in a way that reduces the risk of danger in the first place. And preparation takes many forms, from physically preparing your home, to mentally planning an escape route, to preparing financially.

Suncorp Executive Manager Public Policy Josh Cooney has been part of the Suncorp team on-the-ground following almost every natural disaster of the last few years – from Cyclone Marcia to Cyclone Debbie – and has seen the disruption it brings. However, it’s the relief on customers’ faces that always strikes him.

"It’s our moment of truth – it’s why you take out insurance," he said.

"We take it very seriously. We try to be the first ones there, and the last to leave.

"I’m always struck by the look of relief on people’s faces knowing they are covered."

So how do we encourage preparation? Mr Slade calls for social incentives so that preparation simply becomes the norm.

"Just start talking about it," he said. "Go to your neighbours, start sharing ideas and then help each other. There’s a bias called the herd instinct, so once it becomes the norm – socially this is what you do – people are very likely to keep doing it.

"You get in a car – you put on a seatbelt. You hit storm season – you prepare for a storm."

Meanwhile Mr Cooney also urges a shift in policy focus from recovery to prevention.

"Political leaders shine after a disaster – but they need to shine before disasters too," he said. 

"In a weird way, we need to celebrate the disasters that don’t happen."

#Storm Ready Streets

Over the past couple of months, Suncorp has been helping Queensland residents prepare for storm season through their Storm Ready Streets program. This community program encouraged residents to "team up and clean up" and get active in preparing their home, street, school or community group.

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