The approach of Cyclone Yasi, a Category Five, has made me think about what might be done better in preparation for such events.
In cyclone prone areas, home bathrooms & toilets at least should need strengthened ceilings (say tech-screwed planks above their ceilings secured to solid walls with steel bands) as well a storm shutters on those windows and a land line phone socket in there. Valves or shut-off cocks on drains & toilets would help too (though sandbags on & in these could do the job) to prevent flood backing up the sewers. People might not have time or money to fortify their whole home but a day or two should be enough to buttress the most defendable room.
The government might also mail out stickers personalized for each home in a coastal or riverine area that states the surge level in meters that might subject that home to inundation & the nearest high ground cyclone-resistent public shelter. They would be intended to go in the meter box & advise you to turn the power off if fleeing a cyclone (or even if staying put).
Most cell towers for mobile phones will be wiped out by an indecently-sized cyclone. Could we not build a few, say at public buildings, that automatically retract out of harms way when wind reaches a threshold and come back up when it drops. Retractable domes, as are placed over astronomical telescopes, could be tried too. Temporary cell towers designed for rapid post-cyclone erection could be securely stored at key sites too.
We have many foreign tourists visit Australia, many not that good in English and many not watching TV. Prominent printed notices in German, Chinese, Japanese etc should be posted at hotels, hostels, airports, post offices etc warning and listing advice as cyclones approach.
A battery powered radio is an essential item in your cyclone kit. Auto stores stock car boost/JUMP starter gadgets – my Xantrex Powerpack 300 can output 240V (300 watts) or 12V. This is a more convenient and safer option than a generator that emits noxious fumes for use in a cyclone or flood. A good rechargeable lantern will light a room for nine hours on half power so they can help too. Moving a mattress & table into the bathroom to hunker under should the roof go is sensible as is putting on a hard hat of some sort and wearing a lifejacket/raincoat.
Finally put your animals inside in a secure room too – with access to water and let people know where you are planning to be and that you are all right afterwards. Ask just one trusted person (safely located elsewhere) to relay the information to others rather than overload the undoubtedly stressed communication networks doing so yourself.
Things can be replaced – lives are more important. Build your people networks so you have somewhere to get away to and do so early if you can rather than risk life.