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Don't Panic

Published 26/11/2013

Sunday's episode of the science show Catalyst (ABC 1, 7.30pm) will explore disaster readiness and ways you can be prepared.

On Sunday 1 December, two Australian families will be simultaneously hit by a Category 3 tropical cyclone and a catastrophic bushfire. Are they ready? ... And are you?

What would you do if a natural disaster was heading for you? Would you panic? We like to think we’d react well, but the truth is, most of us wouldn’t – for a very basic reason - our brains partially shut down, and we can react in really weird and potentially dangerous ways, and Catalyst’s Dr Jonica Newby has come up with an audacious plan to help every Australian family be better prepared.

In this ABC TV disaster special, two spectacularly-staged disaster scenarios will be thrown at two unsuspecting Australian families.

On the first day of summer, Tropical Cyclone Jonica will hit Dale and Paul and their four kids at their waterside home at Tweed Heads, while simultaneously a catastrophic bushfire will explode upon the Matthews family in a leafy suburb on the urban fringe of Sydney.

As these simulated disaster events unfold, Jonica discovers first-hand how the brain reacts in a disaster. She also explores survival stories from recent tragedies, and taps the vast experience of Australia’s emergency services experts for life-saving tips to help us all cope better.

The bushfire and cyclone disaster scenarios featured in Don't Panic have been created in consultation with top experts from the Bureau of Meteorology, NSW Rural Fire Service, NSW State Emergency Service, Disaster Australia, Geoscience Australia and the Floodplain Management Association.

Catalyst has also teamed up with Ian Mannix from the ABC’s Emergency Broadcasting Service and expert trauma psychologists Dr Rob Gordon and Professor Sandy McFarlane. Weatherman Graham Creed and newsreader Juanita Phillips from ABC News and Current Affairs present tailor-made, hyper-real news updates and weather reports.

By the end of this special episode of Catalyst, every Australian family will know how climate trends are influencing Australia’s weather extremes, how our brains react when faced with an emergency, and why we should all make time in our calendar to prepare our plan.

To Prepare yourself for a flood or storm, visit Victoria SES' Prepare Page.