Two-thirds of NSW residents are unprepared for the looming storm season, and as storms lash the north of the state, the State Emergency Service has issued a warning against complacency.
New storm claims data and consumer research released by NRMA Insurance and NSW SES reveals storms are the biggest cause of property damage in the state, with an annual cost of $1.56 billion.
Even with NSW and Sydney experiencing one of its driest years on record, nearly half (41 per cent) of all home claims made in NSW in the last financial year were the result of storm damage.
That's lower than in non-drought years, however: the proportion of claims due to storm damage over the past five years is 61 per cent.
Despite this, the research shows a high level of complacency among NSW residents – with only 37 per cent taking steps to prepare their homes for storms, less than half expressing concern about storms damaging their home (41 per cent) and almost three-quarters (74 per cent) underestimating the amount of damage caused by severe storms each year.
Some of that complacency may be due to the relative rarity of cyclone events in NSW compared to Queensland, where residents are more diligent when it comes to storm preparation.
But according to NSW SES spokesman Phil Campbell, the most common forms of storm damage are also the easiest to prepare for – and for residents in fire-prone areas, the bonus is the same maintenance for preventing storm damage also helps protect homes from bushfires.
"With the really big storms and cyclones, there’s obviously a point at which no amount of preventative maintenance is really going to make a difference," Mr Campbell said. "But when you have smaller events, where you've got heavy rain, where gutters are blocked and people aren't carrying out that maintenance, it does make a big difference to do those sorts of preparatory things beforehand."
Leaking and collapsed roofs are some of the most common forms of storm damage seen across NSW, so clearing leaves, moss and other debris from gutters is one thing the SES is urging homeowners to do – along with trimming any overhanging branches and securing outdoor furniture and other items in yards and on balconies.
"It sounds like a trivial thing, but what it can do is save you a lot of money, save you a lot of inconveniences, and it can also help protect your family's safety too," Mr Campbell said.
"You don’t want panels falling off your ceiling or branches coming through your window during a severe storm."
The warning comes as severe storms on the state's north coast claimed one man's life after a massive fig tree fell and crushed his home near Byron Bay on Wednesday night.
But the region most affected by storms in the last year, according to the report, was the Hunter – making up a quarter of the state's storm claims – closely followed by the mid-north coast at 21 per cent.
In Sydney, the suburb worst affected by storms was Castle Hill, followed by Wahroonga, then Blacktown, St Ives, Kellyville, Mosman, Baulkham Hills, Springwood, Caringbah and Turramurra.