What is the Disaster Weekend?

Disaster Weekend recreates the experience of thousands of people in Australia who have faced disasters. By taking part in Disaster Weekend, you will put yourself in the shoes of these people, from the comfort of your own home, and raise money so Red Cross can keep helping people prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters.

Disaster Weekend involves packing an emergency kit and living out of it for 34 hours, with six mystery challenges dispersed throughout the weekend that help you gain a deeper understanding of what people face in an emergency, and simple ways you and your loved ones can be better prepared in case you ever find yourself in one.

Find out more about the experience

Why should I/my school/workplace sign-up?

We want anyone and everyone to take part! The Disaster Weekend is designed to be educational and help you become more prepared for a disaster or emergency, but it's also designed to be fun and spark creativity and resourcefulness with how well you deal with the challenges. It's a great way for a family to get prepared, for children to develop greater empathy, for a workplace to hold some friendly competition or for an individual to test their resilience, all whilst raising money so we can continue to help people prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters.

You'll also get to learn about how Red Cross help in disasters, and hear stories of strength and resilience from people in our community.

Disaster preparedness is an important skill - but learning it doesn't have to be boring. Take part in the Disaster Weekend and put yourself in the shoes of people whose lives have been turned upside down.

When/how can I sign-up?

Is there an age limit for participants?

Participants of all ages are welcome. Kids under 12 can participate with their parents or carers who sign-up and complete the tasks. Kids under 18 can participate with the consent of their parent or carer, so make sure everyone in the family is on board to participate or help. Participants under the age of 18 must have full access to their phone and charger during the challenge, regardless of whether they have any donations.

And of course, if anyone feels unwell or is not coping during the weekend they can stop and access what they need to stay safe and healthy. If you have any questions or concerns, just reach out on contactus@redcross.org.au.

How will you know that people are actually living out of their packed emergency kits, not using any of the banned resources and staying home the whole weekend?

We won't. But we trust people to be honest and do their best to complete the experience as it's intended. To fully appreciate what people go through when they flee a disaster, we need to make Disaster Weekend challenging.

We do understand that things may come up which will prevent people from sticking to the rules - we're just asking that people put in their best effort.

Do I have to complete Disaster Weekend on 23 and 24 October or can I do it another weekend?

You can only complete Disaster Weekend on the set dates (23 and 24 October), as you will be receiving text messages at certain times over the weekend with instructions and details about the experience. If you can't take part on these dates you can still support our work helping people prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters by donating to our Disaster Response and Recovery fund.

Is there a minimum amount I need to raise?

No, all donations are welcome and will help Red Cross to support communities this disaster season. On average most fundraisers raise about $250 (ten friends donating $25), but we're encouraging participants to go big and aim to raise $500. This can help run an emergency operations centre to coordinate our volunteers.

Why should I donate to my own page?

Donating to your own page helps your supporters see that you're committed to the challenge and sets the standard for a fundraising amount. People who donate to their own page raise on average 150% more than people who don't.

You can also earn the use of your mobile phone and charger during the weekend once you receive your first donation - a $20 self-donation could achieve this and also kick start your fundraising.

Do I need to raise all my donations by a set date?

Donations must be finalised by the end of October. We will be in touch with all participants after the challenge ends with final donation and banking options.

Where does the money raised from the Disaster Weekend go?

Funds raised through the Disaster Weekend will go to the Red Cross Disaster Response and Recovery fund. This fund powers Red Cross emergency teams so that we can help people all across Australia who have been impacted by a disaster or an emergency. Your fundraising makes it possible for our emergency teams to do their work: preparing people for emergencies, providing comfort and care when they happen, and supporting them as they recover afterwards

Why are you sending me a cardboard box?

This is your emergency kit box. An important part of being prepared for a disaster is to have a kit of essential items ready to go if you need to evacuate. In a real emergency we would encourage people to use a plastic container but it's important that everyone taking on the Disaster Weekend has the same sized kit for fairness.

If you sign up after 4 October you won’t receive a box but you can still participate – we encourage you to use your own. We recommend a small tub or shopping bag. 

What do I put in the box you send me?

Don't pack your box until the Disaster Weekend begins. You'll get instructions when to pack it. Part of the challenge is to live on only the items in your kit for 34 hours, so you'll need to make sure you have non-perishable food that can go in your kit when the time comes to pack.

If you sign up after 4 October you won’t receive a box but you can still participate – we encourage you to use your own. We recommend a small tub or shopping bag. 

What are the numbered envelopes for?

When you receive your welcome pack there are six numbered envelopes. Do not open these yet! You'll be instructed to open them on an allocated day and time, to discover an action to undertake immediately. These are fun and easy, but will also help you gain a deeper understanding of what it is like for people who have their life turned upside down by a disaster.

If you sign up after 4 October you won’t receive the envelopes in a kit, but don’t worry, we’ll send you the information inside the envelopes via text messages during Disaster Weekend.

What happens if I slip up during the weekend and break the rules? Can I still continue?

Definitely! We understand that things may not go according to plan and there are reasons why you might not be able to stick to the rules. We just ask that everyone puts in their best effort and raises money so we can keep being there for people who do experience a disaster.

What if I feel unwell during the Disaster Weekend?

The health and safety of all challenge participants is our priority. Please look after yourself and know your limits - don't continue with the challenge if you feel ill or are medically advised to stop.

For your health and safety you can have unlimited access to:

  • Drinking water
  • Any medication or therapeutic treatment you need.

I can’t log on to my fundraising page

Please get in touch with our friendly team at contactus@redcross.org.au or give us a call at 1800 733 276.

Disaster Weekend - The Experience

At 8am on Saturday 23 October the experience begins.

You will receive a text message and be asked to open the first envelope.

Hint - Don't pack your disaster kit before the challenge. You'll get instructions when to do it.

When it's time to pack your kit you'll need to grab everything as though you were leaving your home in a disaster situation. That includes food, clothing, important documents, a torch etc.

From that point until 6pm on Sunday night you have to live out of the contents of your Disaster Weekend kit.

To put yourself in the shoes of people who live through disasters, we remove the comforts that you wouldn't have access to if you really fled your home. That means for the duration of the Disaster Weekend:

  • No electricity including lights, television, refrigerator, freezers, fans etc.
  • No cooking appliances
  • No heater or air conditioner
  • No showers or baths
  • No bed - you'll be sleeping on the floor!

Being able to use your phone is vital in a real disaster. For this challenge you can connect to WIFI and use your phone if you have received your first donation (sponsoring yourself is the easiest way to guarantee this!) This rule does not apply to participants under the age of 18, they can have full access to their phone and WIFI without any donations.

As we are bringing to life a situation where you have fled your home, your food cannot be cooked during the challenge - so pack cold/precooked food only (and consider how you will open any tins!).

You can earn rewards to make the experience a little more comfortable, based on how much money you raise. The rewards range from a shower, to an inflatable mattress to a hot delivered meal.

For your health and safety you can have unlimited access to:

  • Drinking water
  • Any medication or therapeutic treatment you need.

If you feel unwell at any time, you can use whatever you need to stay safe and healthy, including the resources and items that have been banned as part of Disaster Weekend.

If you live in a shared house, encourage your housemates to join you. Otherwise, try and take part from your private space as best you can, or consider if there is somewhere else you can go for the weekend. If taking part as a household, each participant gets a kit of their own. This includes children and pets. Keep your supporters updated on your fundraising page and on social media using #DisasterWeekend